Gas explosion is the largest risk with costly outcome. It is estimated that on average one gas leakage, fire or explosion happens every day in Oil & Gas and chemical industry. Gas explosion is one of the most damaging single events.
Tesoro Refinery in USA 2010
2.4 million USD, loss of production and seven casualties
Deepwater Horizon in USA 2010
54 billion USD, loss of production and 11 casualties
Buncefield Oil Depot in UK 2005
1.5 billion USD, loss of production and two serious injuries
A lot has been done in recent decades to learn from incidents like Mexico City 1984 and Piper Alpha. Accidents are well recorded in United States but the practices and regulations vary from country to county. Not all the incidents are well documented. Major incidents like BP Deepwater Horizon in 2010 and generally increased safety consciousness have played their part in highlighting the need for prevention and mitigation of gas explosions. Engineering and development of active and passive safety methods have reduced the risk. Most of the efforts are put on active and preventive methods to prevent the incident from happening (e.g. alarm systems, process control, and early layers of protection). Still, the risk of explosion can be never fully eliminated as there are factors of human error, question on quality of design and execution. Furthermore, new issues come up as technology and industry evolves. One example of this is Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005 in United States. In order to provide proper safety layering blast proofing of buildings is required.
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Attacks on Oil & Gas facilities are nothing new, and occur at both Onshore and Offshore facilities. There are frequent attacks on cross-country pipelines, but attacks such as the In Amenas hostage crisis in Algeria, where 39 foreign hostages were killed (along with an Algerian Security Guard and 29 militants), are becoming more common. Recent events include the takeover of many of Iraq’s Oilfields, including the biggest oil refinery in Iraq, by ISIS (Islamic State) militants. In Libya, a rocket was fired on December 25th 2015 by Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), a coalition of fighters. It ignited the first fire which then spread to six other tanks at Al-Sidra Oil Terminal. Many of the smaller incidents which have not lead to a major consequence are not reported.
Fighters from the Fajr Libya militia prepare to fire an anti-tank cannon during clashes with forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government near the Wetia military air base, west of Tripoli, on December 30, 2014 ©Mahmud Turkia (AFP/File)
The nature and level of threat in many Oil and Gas producing countries has changed rapidly and significantly in recent years and, as such, the potential for disruptive attacks on facilities is increasing.
In modelling the process consequences, it is important to consider the potential state of the plant at the time of impact. Assessing the difference in consequence if the plant has been, for example shut down and depressurized, or if storage inventory has been reduced, can be helpful in comparing the effectiveness of different response strategies. Conversely, the plant may suffer multiple simultaneous effects which would not be considered in a conventional assessment. Common cause loss of power, cooling water or other utilities may increase the potential for process hazards to be realized. The potential for external support to be disrupted should also be considered. A HAZID or What If study could be used to define scenarios for consideration, and to improve response plans.
If a threat is identified by intelligence or observation, for example the movement of hostile forces into a disputed area, then the plant response can start hours or even days before attack is possible. Threat can stay for months.
Responses range from complete shutdown of a threatened facility to continued operation with risk reduction measures including plant and personnel protection, reduced manning, reduced inventory and operational restrictions.
There is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution. The mitigation options can only reduce the impacts of an attack, and not prevent it from happening. As safety measures to prevent the explosion evolve, so does terrorists. Long range missiles are more often available and commercial drones capable of lifting loads are buyable from eBay.
The options to reduce the risk can be grouped;
Properly blast proofed buildings is a good choice when minimal risk in protection of plant and equipment and reducing personnel exposure is wanted. It is also suitable supplement to some of the other safety measures.
Temet supports on executing the risk reduction plan and offers consultation with Abbott Risk Consulting on analysis and drafting the reduction plan.
(Contributed by Matt Vickers, Abbott Risk Consulting)