Texas has become quite important in the development of LNG in the African nation of Angola, said Erik Viedira, a facility engineer with Angola LNG.. Several Houston engineering firms are participating in the design of a five million-tons-per-year onshore LNG plant to be located near Soyo in northern Angola.
"At the end of the day they are going to hand us the plant," Viedira said. "We are going to be operating it, so we are following the project from the beginning."
Viedira and two Angolan associates, Higino dos Santos and Mauro Viegas, with Sonangol E.P., were in Houston for the design work and took the opportunity to participate in the Spring BP LNG fire training course conducted at Texas A&M University's Emergency Services Training Institute in College Station, TX.
"This has to do with the safety part of our program," Viedira said. "Even though this isn't what we are going to be doing, we still have to meet the requirement in safety training. It's company policy."
All three Angolans said they were taken aback by the tremendous heat generated by LNG. Training included participating in live-burn exercises at the BP LNG training project using LNG fuel.
"I found out that being a fireman is really, really hard," Viedira said. "I never thought that an LNG fire would be hotter than a regular gasoline fire."
Firefighters from the U.K., Australia, Trinidad, China and sites throughout the United States were on hand for the LNG school, one of two that BP conducts annually.
Si Lin Jie, a fire chief with Guangdong Dapeng LNG, is responsible for a facility that processes more than three million tons of LNG from Australia annually for resale throughout China. His brigade consists of 15 firefighters, plus an internal emergency crew. Equipment includes three fire trucks equipped with dry chemical and high expansion foam.
"What impressed me was the size of the training field," the fire chief said. "There are all kinds of simulations here. Today we had lots of practice on LNG hazards using different agents."
Derick Powtan of Trinidad works for BP and has trained at ESTI almost annually for the last five years. He said LNG was "new stuff" to him and his team but it was almost certainly "the direction of the future."
"I was surprised by the intensity of the radiant heat," Powtan said. "That was pretty interesting. It showed that the offensive attack can be effective with good planning. But LNG is not something you take on like an oil based product. It's way beyond that and your planning must insure that you have taken safety into account before you execute."
Firefighters attending from the U.S. included Cliff Higbee with the Fortescue (N.J.) Fire Department. The department covers a 125-mile area along the Delaware River, a waterway used by ships carrying LNG cargo. Funding for Higbee and one other Fortescue firefighter to train at ESTI came from the county.
"I'm totally surprised by how safe LNG is compared to other products," Higbee said. "I'm also amazed by the knowledge of the instructors that put on this class. I've been in the fire service for 30 years and I've never seen this type of instruction pulled together in one place just to teach one subject."
Instructors were quickly able to form the municipal and industrial firefighters into a cohesive team on the fire field, Higbee said.
"All these guys put their egos in check and answered our questions like we were equals," Higbee said. "Your question gets answered."