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Massive Texas Oil Terminal Plays Host to Water Flow Demonstration

In Nederland, TX, near Beaumont, Sunoco Logistics may soon be the largest crude oil storage marine terminal in the United States. Today, the facility has 54 crude oil tanks, of which six are in the 290 foot diameter range, six more are under construction and future expansions are under consideration.

"We are in the process of building a number of large tanks," said terminal manager Bucky Crisp. It is extremely important that we have the infrastructure, equipment, manpower and the expertise to respond in a timely manner to a tank fire. This facility and the safety of our neighborhood depend on it."

To that end, Sunoco hosted a mammoth demonstration of fire fighting technology in October courtesy of Williams Fire & Hazard Control. Using two of Williams F&HC's largest "Big Gun" monitors, the goal was to flow 12,000 gpm simultaneously in a tremendous arch of water simulating a tank fire attack.

Addressing an audience of city and state officials, Coast Guard, mutual aid responders and representatives of numerous nearby industries, Dwight Williams, chairman of Williams F&HC, emphasized the need for teamwork between his personnel and the plant fire brigade.

"We are honored to participate as a team to get these things done," Williams said. "You don't get all this hose on the ground, all these headers identified, all the hose laid to the guns properly, the proportioning setup and then extinguish a tank by being an army of one. You do it by teamwork."

In the demonstration, the monitors came to life with a fog pattern that narrowed to a straight stream traveling almost 450 feet across the Sunoco facility. It then simulated the techniques that would be used on a hot crude oil tank fire.

"You can't set up all this equipment before the crude gets hot," Williams said. "The top layer of crude, possibly as deep as three or four feet, will be above the boiling point of water somewhere between 400 and 500 degrees F. "

If the monitor stream hit the hot crude all at once "it would jump right out of the tank," Williams said. The solution is to work the stream back and forth across the surface in a maneuver the Williams F&HC crew refers to as "the tease."

When the temperatures equalize and the crude gets through "cutting up," the time comes to establish the "footprint," Williams F&HC patented methodology for concentrating the various Big Gun streams on one area, allowing the foam to work its way across the tank from there.

"Then you'll see some react lines come up and deliver the coup de grace on the 6 o'clock position," Williams said. "All this will save us about half the foam and half the time."

Foam was made and proportioned three different ways - from a truck, through the pump and using jet ratio controllers. As under emergency conditions, setting up the pumps and hose necessary for this operation takes from eight to 10 hours.

"Don't wait too long to call us," Williams said. "I don't want to be a cheerleader for a bunch of worn out people."

The Sunoco terminal, located on the Sabine-Neches waterway between Beaumont and Port Arthur, is home to 128 above ground storage tanks with a total storage capacity of nearly 12.9 million barrels.

The new tanks planned for the terminal will increase that total storage capacity 29 percent to 16.7 million barrels by the third quarter of 2007. In addition, Department of Energy pipelines connect the Nederland terminal to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve's West Hackberry caverns at Hackberry, LA, and Bill Hill caverns near Winnie, TX, which have an aggregate storage capacity of 370 million barrels.

The terminal can receive crude oil at each of its five ship docks and three barge berths. The five ship docks are capable of receiving more than one million barrels per day of crude oil. The terminal can also receive crude oil through 12 pipelines connecting to major markets. The terminal also recieves, stores and distributes crude, feedstocks, lubricants, petrochemicals and bunker oils.

Terminal Fire Chief Tommy Wells was on hand to lend support in June 2001 when Williams Fire & Hazard Control successfully extinguished a record setting gasoline storage tank fire in Norco, LA. Working as a team, firefighters extinguished the 270-foot diameter jumbo storage tank with almost half the product saved.

The expansion at Nederland has Sunoco thinking about how best to protect its investment.

"The demonstration today was to make sure that we have everything we need to protect that investment, not only for Sunoco but for all the customers we represent," Wells said. "Some of that product in those tanks belongs to other clients whom we have to protect."

At Nederland, Wells leads a 12 member volunteer brigade using personnel from operations. Operators work a 12-hour shift at Sunoco in a rotation that guarantees fire brigade volunteers are always available. In addition, the Nederland brigade employs a paging system.

"We cross train all the time," Wells said. "I try to have it where anybody can pump the truck and assume command because you don't know who's going to be around when something happens."

Sunoco maintains diesel and electric fire pumps along the river front capable of providing as much as 15,000 gpm. Industrial facilities normally employ 12-to-15 inch fire mains. At Nederland, fire mains are 24 inches providing 120 pounds per square inch. That pressure can be increased to 150 pounds when necessary.

"We have Williams F&HC manifolds," Wells said. "As for our hydrants, we've upgraded to the B84B American Darling hydrant that can deliver right at 2,000 gpm."

The brigade is equipped with a 1995 National Foam pumper truck which is rated at 3,000 gpm. Also, the brigade has a Williams F&HC 1x6 Gun capable of delivering from 1,000 to 6,000 gpm.

In the wake of the Buncefield oil terminal explosion and fire near London in December 2005, Wells said that asking the question "What If?" is an increasingly important part of his job.

"That's probably in the back of every emergency response person's mind," Wells said. "I meet with the plant manager monthly to discuss different scenarios that we need to protect against."

Buncefield has also made fire chiefs more aware that battling the blaze may not always be the answer.

"We have to protect the environment as well," Wells said. "And there is personal safety to consider. What if we could put the tank fire out but it would jeopardize someone's life. We don't want to do that. Life safety is number one. That's preached throughout the whole company."??????? o

Visit Williams F&HC at Booth J during the IFW Emergency Responder Conference.


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