Risk of explosion slim for LNG projects: EAO documents

Environmental documents for Kitimat's two major LNG proposals point to the very low likelihood of explosions.

Following a major explosion in a port community in China yesterday, the proponents behind Kitimat’s two major LNG projects — Kitimat LNG and LNG Canada — point to their comprehensive safety planning for their proposed Kitimat facilities.

As well, the chances of a similar type of catastrophic explosion in Kitimat is very slim, according to environmental assessment documents relating to the two projects.

The explosion in China in the town of Tianjin on August 12 is believed to be an industrial accident. It’s unclear the type of explosives which ignited to create the explosion, and it should be noted no reports have suggested it is natural gas.

Fire and explosion is an area that is addressed in LNG Canada and Kitimat LNG’s environmental assessment reports.

Within the environment assessment report for LNG Canada, the document the government prepared as it issued the company their environmental assessment certificate, it’s said that “the credible worst-case scenario for a fire or explosion is the uncontrolled released…of gas phase materials that are stored or used within high pressure systems.”

That is referring to gas feed systems, refrigerant loop systems and propane.

The report notes that a fire could result from an LNG vapour cloud, but such a scenario is actually unlikely “because LNG is stored and pumped under low pressure.”

The report also notes that “the direct effects of both scenarios would likely be contained within the LNG facility.”

Natural gas, while flammable, is actually interestingly difficult to ignite in many circumstances. It requires between five and 15 per cent proportion of air to ignite. Too little oxygen and a flame can’t ignite, or too much and it basically gets too saturated to ignite.

The environmental assessment report for Chevron’s Kitimat LNG project addresses that fact too, and also notes that natural gas in liquid form “cannot explode or burn.”

If there is a release the natural gas may be seen as a white cloud before being dispersed by wind, says the report.

LNG Canada’s spokesperson points to their efforts on developing safety.

“Over the past few years, LNG Canada has spent considerable time in the community to better understand concerns and identify opportunities related to the LNG Canada project,” said Director of External Affairs Susannah Pierce in a media statement. “What we heard, more clearly than anything else, is how important safety is to the community. One of our core values, and a commitment we have made to the community, is to protect our neighbours, employees and contractors, and we will consider their safety in every decision we make. LNG facilities and carriers have a proven safety record.”

She said the company continues to work with local authorities and governments to develop response plans for any emergency.