The Buncefield Oil Depot fire explosion was referenced during NFPA's Latin American Conference on Process Safety keynote address.
NFPA Division Director Guy Colonna opened up The 7th Latin American Conference on Process Safety in Lima, Peru earlier this week with a keynote address on risk management and process safety. Colonna spoke to manufacturers, government agencies, consultants, academia and insurers associated with the chemical, pharmaceutical, and petroleum industries about process safety strategies and the application to NFPA codes and standards. Colonna also presented an educational session on the second day of the conference being hosted by the Center for Process Safety (CCPS).
Colonna explained that organizations employing process safety strategies learn what they are doing well and can apply effective controls to similar hazards so that they achieve equally favorable results. He cautioned attendees not to rely on past practices or consider a “lack of a serious incident” justification for bypassing proactive risk-based safety measures. Without a benchmark for what’s working and what’s not, he advised, it’s difficult to provide a formal process safety assessment.
National and international standards, like NFPA’s, follow the strategies of risk-based process safety. They provide a consistent way of managing certain well-identified hazards – and frame best practices within industries to show how to consistently implement those practices. Colonna emphasized that a long-term strategy should include:
• Compliance with standards by maintaining a dependable practice, conducting compliance work activities and following through on decisions, actions, and use of results
• Stakeholder outreach so that information is developed and disseminated to reduce issues
To underscore his message, Colonna pointed to high-visibility catastrophes that led to scrutiny internationally:
• The Buncefield Oil Depot fire and explosion in the United Kingdom that involved 22 of 31 tanks and resulted in smoke plumes in Portugal and France.
• A fire at Caribbean Petroleum Company that damaged 17 of 48 tanks in the terminal as gasoline was offloaded from a ship.
• An ammonium nitrate fertilizer grade fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant in Texas that resulted in 15 fatalities.
Last week, another blast occurred in two tanks in Managua, Nicaragua. The factors that lead to this recent explosion are unknown at this point but the other noted incidents lead to government level investigations, reports on causal factors, corrective actions for respective industries and recommendations to regulatory and standards-setting bodies like NFPA.
The key takeaways from Colonna’s Latin American presentation are that standards impact risk-based process safety goals in many ways and process safety is a career-long journey for every worker.