Skip to comments.Protecting US Oil Refineries: Simple Solution
Posted on 10/24/2017 2:40:32 AM PDT by topher
Hurricane Harvey took out a number of OIL REFINERIES.
One problem was FLOODING. This meant that backup equipment would not function because of flooding.
Another concern is that of a refinery explosion such as has occurred in the past (Texas City - 1947 and 2005, Carson - 1985 and 2016). In such explosions surrounding areas might cause injuries and damage to surrounding property.
Another concern is terrorism.
Possible simple fix? Same used for Mississippi River. The force of water is extremely powerful. So how is it controlled - earthern levees and other works.
Probably the minimum height for refineries might be 30 feet. But could be higher.
Special access to refinery could be created by concrete tunnels with steel doors. Such access would be needed but would have to prevent water from entering refinery.
Terrorism could be prevented by special building of the levees.
Two important Acts of God are hurricanes and earthquakes. The powerful winds of hurricanes may be deflected by the levees. Also flooding can be common with Hurricanes such as in the case of H. Harvey. Earthquakes poise a different problem: the levees could be damaged, but engineering might solve this problem. [Topher has some Engineering experience but strong in Math and other areas. For this reason Topher feel it should be addressed.]
Sufficient DATA for this to be researched and evaluated.
In time of war, loss of important ASSETS such as these would be SIGNIFICANT. Another important justification for consideration of this.
However, offshore oil platforms have a 40 foot safety gap to water to prevent damage (from 40 foot wave, etc). Hurricane Rita, if memory serves me correctly, caused extensive damage to platforms.
Apples and oranges in terms of using air gap under offshore platform versus earthern levee for oil refinery. But same difference: best attempt at protecting these valuable MAN MADE resources.
You mention the Texas City 1947 explosion. That was not a refinery. It was ammonium nitrate stored in the hold of a ship.
And who spends all that money building the 30 foot levees?
Engineering is not perfect, never has been and never will be. We are held though to the general engineering standards and practices at the time the work is performed. We have lots of tricks up our sleeve and are constantly developing new ones and refining old ones.
You can use Google Earth to confirm that petroleum plants are significantly larger than any offshore oil platform. That’s why it would be impractical.
BUT, I suspect that "AH" (After Harvey), the companies will find the money.
(Personal note...I grew up in South Louisiana in an area protected by levees, and have great appreciation for them and for the Corps of Engineers who built them). Probably the only place on earth with better levees is the Netherlands. When I had occasion to visit the Dutch seacoast, I "was" majorly impressed.
Here’s a shocking solution- don’t build critical infrastructure in high probability catastrophe zones.
Yeah, too late, but pumping oil to a refinery 100 miles inland would not be as expensive ( and we all know who pays for everything) as constant repairs and after-thought “fixes”.
Yeah, I am an engineer with environmental background.
Dep of Energy. Require all new refineries to be built north of a line representing the average northern extent of the worst impacts from hurricanes, and build pipelines from and to the gulf region from transporting crude and refined product. A one-time capital infrastructure expense. Give 100% tax credits for the refinery industry for building replacements of all current refineries with any serious chance of closure due to hurricanes.
My back of the envelope calculations are that a fully new integrated oil refinery would cost in the 7 to 15 billion dollar range depending on size. This does not account for the cost of establishing new support facilities for outside services and suppliers or the several thousands of expanded population that would relocated into the area.
So, we would support this via tax credits (higher taxes passed to the consumer, $$$ ain't free) and the increased operating costs passed to the consumer as well. No thanks....
1. Harvey as an example, essentially bounced off the gulf coast refinery and petrochem facilities and had a trivial impact on their infrastructure. Note as an example that the initial landfall of Harvey when it was at its strongest was at Rockport, TX, which is about 10 miles on the opposite side of the bay from Corpus Christi harbor where the refineries are located. No significant damage to the refineries there that I have heard about. The reason for the somewhat extended restart on the gulf coast in general had more to do with the energy supply for the plants that were not self supporting and for their workers being able to get to the plant.
Harvey was a huge rain maker, not a severe hurricane with respect to surge and wind except for Rockport. These plants are designed for and have experienced more severe events than Harvey. Hurricane procedures are established and trained for and account for preseason preparations, shut down schedule and procedure, critical plant staffing for the storm crew, evacuation of workers and family, return schedule for evacuees upon the all clear, start up by the in-plant crew after critical inspections with a subsequent total inspection post start up by returning staff.
2. Constant repairs are known and routine. Not sure what you're referring to.
3. An after-thought fix? hmmmmm.... Elevations and wind loads are known and are accounted for pretty well. Perhaps you're referring to that small chemical facility that was east of Houston metro and (dramatically) had the explosion hazard of product storage vessels after backup power was lost out. I don't recall for sure but don't think the tanks actually blew so the redundant engineering spec’d provisions worked. I guarantee though that lessons were learned and remedies are being evaluated and implemented with respect to that facility with the results propagated through the industry. That's the way of things.
4. And yeah, I'm an engineer too with an industrial and environmental background. ChE/Microbiology dual, R&D, process design, detail design, pilot plant, operations, capital projects, project management, trouble shooting, construction management, business management, consulting, refining/petrochem, steel, mining, food, paper, etc. I fix problems in the real world.
You can always just start at Memphis, Tennessee and start using Google Maps to view the levee system. That might take you a while to do. Just to view it.
Yes. It would take time. Rome was not built in a day.
I appreciate the correction.
My name appears in a Computer Science textbook in the errata section, as professor who published book had really bad computer math example (floating point). I could just look at that, and see it was in error.
Currently, terrorists might blow up one of our refineries. Why? Some you can see from streets (near Newark Airpost) as an example.
Pumping water out of refinery may require fuel. But any fuel the refinery could itself generate and have a significant storage just for generator(s) to provide power and pumping capacity for the refinery during something like catastrophic rain amounts such as Hurricane Harvey rains on the Refineries from Corpus Christi to Sabine River (Louisiana border).
Please remember that refineries in Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange were also hit Hurricane Harvey.
You are suggesting building 100 mile pipelines PLUS the refinery. There was a lot of resistance to oil pipelines recently in the Dakotas.
But one only need look at the Mississippi River levee system, and not only was it difficult to build, but this system needs a lot of maintenance.
I would like to see Rex Tillerson get some folks from Exxon-Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Valero (business focus refineries/gas stations), Shell Oil, etc. to discuss this.
My idea might be totally impractical, but we had major disruptions of gas/diesel to places at time people needed to evacuate. Florida best example, perhaps.
This idea protects generators, prevents flooding, and other aspects. Helicopters would be able to land at such a facility.
Facility that BLEW UP AFTER HURRICANE HARVEY flooding is the ARKEMA Chemical Plant Explosion.
In the middle of FEMA and police/First Responders having to deal with Hurricane Harvey disaster, the ARKEMA situation arose requiring evacuation - draining emergency response resources.
Another justification - helps FEMA.
(1) Flooding avoided
(2) Generators could have been able to keep running.
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