By 2008, the Crown Landing LNG terminal proposed for the shores of the Delaware River in New Jersey will have a daily capacity of 1.2 billion cubic feet. Area responders attending an LNG fire fighting workshop conducted at Texas A&M University in October are wasting no time getting ready.
Jim Schmidt, chief of the Gibbstown (N.J.) Fire Company, was one of 12 New Jersey and Delaware firefighters on hand for the liquefied natural gas workshop conducted by BP Global. Gibbstown neighbors Bridgeport, N.J., home of the new LNG terminal.
"Providing the knowledge and information to the local responders is important so they will be able to prepare themselves and their department to respond to emergencies," Schmidt said.
Also attending the workshop at the Texas Engineering Extension Service's Brayton Fire Training Field were firefighters and related personnel from China, Indonesia, Japan and Korea. At nearly 30 students, BP chief fire consultant Richard Coates said the workshop was "totally overbooked."
"We've got five nationalities here that have been working on building confidence and teamwork by using dry chemicals and foam on burning LNG," Coates said.
LNG is expected to play an important role in meeting the world's increasing demand for clean-burning natural gas. BP, the world's second largest non-state supplier of natural gas to liquefaction plants, also operates its own fleet of LNG vessels.
"It's great to have the mix of first responders from four fire departments that will provide the mutual aid emergency response to Crown Landing, along with LNG design engineers and process supervisors from LNG plants across the world," Coates said. "Everyone learns off each other."
BP Group Technology, in conjunction with BP Global LNG, worked as joint partners with Texas A&M to develop the new training and testing facility that opened at the Emergency Services Training Institute in College Station, TX, in September 2004. The company has conducted two previous workshops for BP personnel and a combination of first responders and industry contractors that design LNG facilities.
Schmidt said the three-and-a-half-day workshop gave him a whole new respect for LNG.
"You get to see how it reacts with water," he said. "You see the extinguishing techniques that need to be utilized. You gain a lot of information just from the company representatives here on the design of these terminals -- how they contain spills and make fire suppression easier. You get to see how high expansion foam units and other fixed systems are used."
Two days of live burns at the LNG training facility consumed the contents of two 10,000 gallon tank trucks. The workshop coup de grace called for lighting all four LNG 'props' at one time, each with a depth of LNG measured in inches. A carefully aimed flare gun set the pits ablaze.
"To be honest I didn't realize the heat from these pits," Schmidt said. "We do have refineries in my jurisdiction. We've trained using props fueled by conventional hydrocarbons. The heat factor here is far greater, but it is a controllable and containable event."
Firefighters, working in unison, extinguished the four pits within seconds of ignition using foam and dry chemical.
Not everyone attending the LNG workshop were emergency responders. Yasuyuki Nomoto and Takashi Nozato are fire engineers for the JGC Corporation, Japan's biggest engineering company. JGC, together with BP, is involved in numerous LNG facility construction projects throughout the world.
"We are both working on the Tangguh LNG project in Indonesia, which is also a BP project" Nomoto said. "Richard Coates visited us in Yokohama. He wanted us to attend this workshop. It's an honor for us since this the first time Japanese have attended."
Both Nomoto and Nozato said it was important to compare the fire protection proposed for JGC facilities with the realities of LNG fire fighting learned in Texas.
"We are engineers, not firefighters," Nomoto said. "We have thousands of extinguishers provided for the various projects but it is important for me to use one myself. It is very important for me to see the actual thing with regard to foam application. This will be very important to us in future design."
The planned LNG processing plant serving the Tangguh gas fields will be able to produce more than seven million tons of LNG per annum from two initial processing trains.
Also involved with the Tangguh project is Korean-based Posco, the world's second largest steel maker. The Indonesia government has signed an agreement with Posco to provide more than half a million tons of LNG per annum for a period of 20 years.
Sang-Hyeon Kim is in charge of fire fighting in Posco's LNG facilities. BP Korea paid the full tuition for Kim, LNG terminal operations team member Myoung-Gyu Kim and an interpreter to attend the workshop.
"The characteristics of LNG is far from that of a general hydrocarbon such as crude oil," Sang-Hyeon Kim said. "It requires new techniques for fire fighting. Here the training is closer to the real situation found in an LNG terminal."
BP is also the only foreign partner in China's first LNG import terminal and trunk-line project under construction in Guangdong province. The project will consist of an LNG re-gasification terminal near the city of Shenzhen, with a capacity of three million tons a year, together with more than 175 miles of associated pipeline. It is due on stream in 2006.
Paul Richards with BP brought two Chinese shift supervisors from Guangdong. These supervisors would be the first people to respond in an emergency.
"I believe they're going to be talking about the quality of training here when they get home," Richards said. "They've really enjoyed getting to see the way LNG behaves. They're used to dealing with hydrocarbon fires in refineries."
In northern Spain, the LNG import and re-gasification facility in Bilbao on the Bay of Biscay has been in operation since 2003. It can handle as much as six billion cubic meters of gas per year. As with Tangguh and Guangdong, BP is a partner in the company created for the development, Bahia de Bizkaia Gas (BBG).
Josu Elorza, head of mechanical maintenance for BBG, was also on hand for the BP LNG workshop. As opposed to China, Spain qualifies as an old hand at handling LNG imports with nearly 40 years experience.
"We are here because we want to work better, to know the product better and know that our system is prepared to fight the fire," Elorza said.
Accompanying Elorza was Javier Gomez, a firefighter with the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia, the fire brigade for the city of Bilboa. Before his visit to Texas A&M, he had no previous experience dealing with LNG.
"We have to decide what the intervention plan will be in case there is a problem," Gomez said. "What will be the role of the fire brigade."
The report he will be giving to his colleagues in Bilboa will be positive, he said.
"When I came here I was not very clear on what we could do as a fire brigade in case of this kind of emergency," Gomez said. "I know now to what extent we can depend on help from the facility. One of the reasons we are here is to organize the training for emergencies for their people and also for the fire brigade. When I get back we will have to design a training package."
Threatening the success of this year's LNG workshop was a continuing fuel shortage in the U.S. in the wake of two monster hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in rapid succession. Power generation and other priorities made it impossible to obtain the grade of LNG usually preferred for training, said Richard Coates.
"We couldn't get the alternative lower methane concentrate LNG," Coates said. "That's part of why we are here. We need additional terminals in the United States because we don't have adequate facilities to bring in the gas."
However, the shortage has not affected plans for further improvements at the one-year-old LNG training facility. Phase four of the development plan calls for the installation of underground fire mains and a series of fixed water spray curtains. The underground mains are part of a $16 million upgrade to Brayton which includes an improved system for recovering foam concentrate from fire runoff.
Water curtains "are far more effective than mobile or fixed monitors in containing and controlling gas clouds," Coates said. Both the mains and water curtains are scheduled to be in place by the next LNG workshop in April.
Two other BP schools shared Brayton facilities with the LNG workshop in October -- an advance exterior fire fighting course and a leadership course. About 130 students from various parts of the world attended the BP courses. A large contingent from SECCO, a Chinese joint venture that includes BP, were on hand for the other courses, Coates said.
The 220-hectare SECCO facility, the largest petrochemical complex in China, was completed and commissioned in June.
Attendance for the other schools suffered as a direct result of hurricane damage and the continuing effort to bring all facilities back on line. However, that did not prevent one of BP's highest ranking officers, vice president for group safety Deborah Grubbe, from taking time to address the school on its opening night. Grubbe is also a vice chair with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
"It was the first time the school had been addressed by such an outstanding person," Coates said. "She highlighted the importance of the fire school to the company and to individuals. She was very positive about the future of the school and its links to Texas A&M." o