Fire Chief  Jim Allemann of Nikiski Fire Department

To say the least, I had a sick feeling and was very upset after reading what information the report contained concerning our discussion.  However, it appears from the way our discussion was rearranged and/or fabricated in the document and the way some of the factors and items were omitted or dismissed, that it was a search for information that did not want to provide an unbiased view of LNG, its facilities, or the true relationship between ConocoPhillips and the Nikiski Fire Department.

The print below that is not bold is from the report.  The bold is my response.

 “The Captain and most of the department had been trained at and by Texas A&M”

 Most of the department was trained at the PRISM Facility in Kenai, Alaska, by Texas A&M and Industrial Fire World Instructors not at Texas A&M.

 We had a “worst case” discussion with the Captain.  Jim’s example of a worst case scenario is a catastrophic breach of an LNG tank within a large diked area with a moderate cross wind and a remote downwind ignition source resulting in the delayed ignition of an expanded and moving vapor cloud.  He believes that this combination of factors or others like them could lead to a truly catastrophic event with implications at a distance from the facility. 

 The following information did not note during this discussion that we talked about properties of propane and gasoline and how that they were different than natural gas or LNG.  We specifically discussed how LNG is not flammable until vaporized and as compared to that of gasoline or propane where a vapor cloud could be formed and roll across the room or ground compared to that of LNG which is lighter than air and will rise.  Nor is there any mention of the monitoring equipment that we employ (and that I offered to show) that we use to help us locate ANY LEL issues that NFD might be concerned about.

 I fail to see how anyone could deduce that LNG is going to form a significant vapor cloud (in an open atmosphere) that is going to travel downwind of any significant distance when it is considerably lighter than air.  Even our own tests (at PRISM when training this year) demonstrated that the vapors traveled very quickly up into the atmosphere in 10 MPH winds. We even forced the LNG to vaporize more quickly to watch the reaction upon ignition, and the area that would burn was just a few feet above the ground and did not carry downwind more than a few feet. 

 I also gave the example to the delegation of responding to a very large natural gas line that had been damaged by a telephone company backhoe and how that natural gas had escaped into the atmosphere and the perimeter established around the release was actually quite small.  We were able to make the perimeter small because we had equipment to monitor the release and also because of the properties of natural gas.   I believe the “expanded and moving vapor cloud” statement should have been attached to the propane and gasoline comparison and not LNG.

 In my opinion, a large release of LNG from a damaged storage tank would have an extremely high probability of finding an ignition source, given all the possible ignition sources that are found at a facility.  There are ignition sources even in the diked areas of an LNG facility and that any “catastrophic failure of the tank” would create even more ignition sources due to damage of surrounding equipment (powered instrumentation, electrical heaters, monitors, etc).

 Jim believes that in such a situation there is little that his Department, or any department, could do other than wait for the vapors to burn and become too dilute to support fire

 Jim believes that a redundant automatic high expansion foaming system on site is a necessity to guard against a “worst case” catastrophic event. 

 It should be mentioned that this discussion was based on information that the delegation supplied me concerning what type of training and fire equipment ConocoPhillips would be supplying the small fire department that would be serving this area.  It was suggested that ConocoPhillips would be providing the fire department with LNG training and possibly a new truck or two that would have specific use at this facility.  I suggested that the trucks would probably have some type of high expansion foam capability that would supplement whatever type of fire protection was at the facility.  In 1978, I attended a LNG firefighting course at Texas A&M and witnessed the use of high expansion foam.  It worked very well (when applied in enough volume and with the proper equipment) to put out a LNG fire in a pit.  My statements about the use of high expansion foam are based on my Texas A&M experience.

 His department does not employ high expansion foam, nor does the Nikiski LNG facility.  Jim thinks that such an automatic foam system is absolutely essential at any LNG facility and that it should be coupled with a high expansion foam unit at the appropriate fire departments.

 With all due respect to those who have compiled my comments into a few short paragraphs, I believe having read this compilation of information, that I have been misrepresented about my concerns about dealing with a LNG problem here at the Kenai facility.  Let me say unequivocally, I am confident that I have received the training needed to work with ConocoPhillips in the unlikely event that a tank did rupture.  The training we received is as important as the training I need to deal with medical, diving, or confined space emergencies whether at ConocoPhillips, Agrium, or at a individuals residence.  I am trained in emergency response procedures for far more dangerous fuels than LNG.  The area where I was most misrepresented in the report was re-arranging my statements into fabrications to represent LNG as being more dangerous than we know it to be as professional firefighters. 

 This report also did not include information that I gave to the delegation concerning ConocoPhillips’ working relationship with the fire department and how the LNG facility has also provided valuable support to our department fire fighting operations when we respond to other facilities and to structure fires at the homes of our residents.  I guess that would be too much to ask.  Jim Allemann