Butane tanks Suncor: high risk area

suncor-spheres-butane-secteur-depuisFew citizens know this. And nearly 100,000 motorists are kept in the dark. But La Presse has learned that the Metropolitan Expressway passes through an area now regarded as “very high risk” where any building was recently forbidden. Civil security is concerned about the damage that would cause the explosion of butane three balls of oil Suncor.

The Metropolitan expressway runs through an area where the City of Montreal recently banned any construction due to the “very high level of risk” posed by the presence of butane balls of oil Suncor.

The high risk found area is located in the industrial district of Pointe-aux-Trembles, on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Métropolitain. It is within 610 meters around the three butane spheres of Suncor Energy. On average, more than 100 000 vehicles pass through the center of this area daily.

The explosion of a tank would create a huge fireball, causing serious burns and death. His power would shatter the windows of buildings located within a radius of several hundred meters and cause the metal debris projection.

The decision of the City to prohibit any construction is based on an opinion of the civil protection center in Montreal. The opinion was issued in May 2014, but was released by the little borough of Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles. The moratorium on construction was renewed in November 2014 and in October 2015. Since then, the Board reassesses the new measures taken by Suncor to mitigate risk and deliver its final opinion shortly.

“Our role is to look at the impact on the sector, whether caused by an industrial accident or a terrorist act,” says the Director of Civil Security Center, Louise Bradette.

“When there is an important route of traffic, it concerns us. We try to keep the risk within the Suncor site and remove the threat to the taxiway. ”

Suncor, formerly Petro-Canada, butane spheres in this sector for sixty years. From 2007 to 2010, the old tanks were replaced by three new butane spheres south of the boulevard Saint-Jean-Baptiste, about 250 meters from the Metropolitan.

Suncor had then obtained the various permits in order to install these new spheres. However, in May 2014, the Emergency Management Centre was invited by the district to give its opinion on an adjacent 40 million project submitted by a promoter (see other article). And the answer was clear: we must ban the construction.

Megantic lake

“Knowledge of risk changes a lot. We saw large fires with large impacts, such as Lac-Mégantic, which raised awareness […]. We realize that cohabitation between industries and citizens is not always possible. That’s why we publish serious opinions like this. My concern is that there is no impact for citizens, “says Louise Bradette, according to the nightmare scenario is unlikely, but would have a very big impact.

The moratorium is so strict that the zone enterprise has even banned the simple installation of an identification sign 4 feet by 6 feet.

Originally, the opinion of the Centre was a radius of 830 meters. The limits then encompassed the buildings along the Metropolitan as the Transcontinental plant, which is printed La Presse. In October 2015, the moratorium excluded the borders of the area by reducing the limit of 830-610 meters.

You can not officially know the volume of butane contained in the three balloons, despite our repeated requests to the company, the City and the Civil Security Center. The analysis of about twenty pages of the Emergency Preparedness Centre is as secret as possible to the district and that of the management of the City’s environment.

However, according to our information, the three spheres could store up to about 3000 cubic meters of butane in total, the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool.

Butane is a gas fired oil refining residues adjacent facilities. It is added to gasoline winter. It is extremely volatile, stored under high pressure, and unlike gasoline, combined with a flame leak likely cause an explosion. The impact would take the form of a huge fireball, called Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE).

The risks

According to a public document Suncor dated March 2014, an explosion would cause serious burns within 610 meters of the spheres. Beyond this range, the company talks about second degree burns.

These health risks, however, take into account the mitigation measures established by Suncor. The summary document Suncor does not indicate the impact without these measures, as was the case in previous versions.

In 2004, for example, Suncor estimated that the explosion of the equivalent of the three spheres (1200 cubic meters) would cause a shock wave over a distance of 1.6 km. “Such a shock wave could cause breakage of glass in buildings,” according to toxicologist Luc Lefebvre, Public Health Regional Directorate.

At the time, it was estimated that with the risk mitigation measures, an explosion would cause serious burns over a distance of 1.3 km. This ray is now reduced to 610 meters, area through the highway.

In 2007, the district had issued a license to Suncor without seeking advice to civil security center, but relying on the opinion of the Fire Department of Montreal.

“The ways of making the time allowed for the installation. There was no indication-cons. The probability of an accident is rather low, but we prefer a moratorium pending further information, “said Richard Joseph, Division of Planning rounding.

At Suncor, we are reminded that the possibility of accidents is very low. “Our spheres are at the cutting edge of technology and very safe,” said spokesman Dean Dussault, who says Suncor meets all regulatory requirements.

For 15 years, two fires in Suncor’s Montreal facilities have been declared (2001 and 2012), but with minor impacts.

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