Risk of explosions “with high margins of lethality in the population”, the expertise that keeps Escobar’s regasification vessel paralyzed

Risk of explosions “with high margins of lethality in the population”, the expertise that keeps Escobar’s regasification vessel paralyzed

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In the middle of the judicial fair in January, the Government and the YPF company are working around the clock to try to unblock a conflict that has paralyzed the LNG (liquefied natural gas) regasification ship located in Escobar, key to the supply of gas each winter. The terminal was closed by the Justice in October after an extensive investigation that took almost three years and detected serious risks to the population and the environment. The Government appealed that measure and from then on the decision remained in the hands of the Federal Chamber of San Martín.

The Escobar terminal is currently the only access route for LNG ships arriving in the country. Until 2018, a regasification vessel was also operating in Bahía Blanca (it converts LNG to natural gas), but former president Mauricio Macri decided to fire it due to the increase in national gas production. That was the end of a symbol of Kirchnerism’s energy policy for more than a decade.

In October, the Escobar terminal also stopped operating: Campana federal judge Adrián González Charvay ordered the closure after analyzing an extensive expertise commissioned to the Faculty of Engineering of the National University of Lomas de Zamora. “Faced with the eventual occurrence of some of the occurrences estimated in the expertise – either in the Terminal itself or in the area of ​​navigability – its consequences would redound, not only in said facilities and collaterally in the environment, but mainly and with high margins of lethality in the population, “said the magistrate at that time.

The Government wants the issue to be resolved as soon as possible because the ship, which has been in operation since 2011, is key in supplying gas during the winter season but also in supplying the electric power plants. In fact, the controller of Enargas, Federico Bernal, sent a note last Friday to the Secretary of Energy Darío Martinez in which he highlighted the importance of the Escobar terminal for the domestic market and asked that measures be adopted.

“During the winter of 2020, in the months of June, July and August, the PIST Escobar entered an average of 16.6 MMm3 / d (with maximum values ​​of 22MMm3 / d), representing around 12% of the total natural gas received in the transportation systems during that period, all in a context in which the demand for natural gas is greater than the supply, ”says that note to which this medium had access.

The Secretary of Energy, Darío Martinez

The Secretary of Energy, Darío Martinez

The Escobar terminal is closed due to a technical expertise. This study analyzed the entire LNG discharge process to detect possible risks of fire and / or explosions with catastrophic consequences. Experts talk about VCE (vapor cloud explosion) and BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion). “The type of explosion (VCE and BLEVE) is of particular attention for substances such as LNG, and the facilities that operate with it, due to its high destructive power, capable of reducing several thousand square meters of surface area around its epicenter to rubble.”, Detailed the judge when ordering the closure.

The 40-page expert report bears the signature of the engineer Fernando Massaro and drew these conclusions:

-Under the scenarios and conditions analyzed, eleven areas or zones affected by a VCE and / or BLEVE were identified with an epicenter at the facilities of the Escobar LNG Port Terminal, with effects of varying magnitude according to the distances to said Terminal.

-For the VCE / BLEVEs scenarios analyzed, the results show a high number of fatalities in the surrounding population, due to the effects of the shock wave, added to the damage caused by the so-called “projectiles” (pieces of the facilities and equipment that are thrown randomly by said shock wave), the effects of thermal radiation and the exposure times to the same.

-The area also presents extreme opposite conditions, given by times of drought that are associated with downspouts in the Waterway as a whole, as well as events of forest fires (intentional and unintentional).

-As a result of the application of the NVIC 01-11 code for LNG Carrier Vessels, a coincidence is observed between the previously analyzed areas of affectation and lethality and the “Alert Zones” impacted during the navigation of the LNG Carrier Vessel in the approach and mooring at the Escobar LNG Port Terminal.

-In the case of the LNG Escobar Porturaia Terminal, as well as the navigation route of the LNG Carrier Ships (waterway and approach section), the results obtained for the risk calculation, according to the Basic Guideline of the aforementioned European legislation SEVESO III, indicate that the risk is unacceptable considering the magnitude of the consequences and the number of lives lost in the VCE / BLEVE scenarios in said terminal approximately five hundred times greater than the threshold value).

The expertise was the end of a long process that began in 2014, when the Federal Chamber of San Martín ordered this study. In between, at least three experts were appointed. The first, from the Haedo Regional School of the UTN, died shortly after his appointment. At the end of 2015, the Faculty of Engineering of the UBA was elected but then it was reversed due to possible incompatibilities. According to the records of case 75001619/2011 to which he had access Infobae, In July 2017, he was finally elected to the Faculty of Engineering of the National University of Lomas de Zamora.

The expertise took more than three years and was only added to the file on October 16 of last year. That same day, the judge ordered the closure of the property located at kilometer 74.5 of the Paraná de las Palmas River.

From that moment on, the file had dozens of presentations. YPF appealed the resolution just a week later and the case was raised to the Room I of the Federal Chamber of San Martín on the 24th of that month.

In December, lawyers for YPF – which operates the terminal together with Ieasa (the former Enarsa) – provided a report from a British consultancy and the UTN questioning the expertise.

The movement of the file did not stop during the fair. As this media learned from sources with access to the case, on January 13, YPF and the Secretary of Energy asked a series of measures regarding the expert study presented by the University of Lomas de Zamora. Two days later, the judge gave the expert an intervention.

Ben Oakley
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