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North Ness Petrol Tank & Future Development Potential


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The fire at Buncefield was caused by a tank overflowing, caused by sensor failures in the early hours of the morning when there was a minimum of staff on duty. The tank was filled from a pipeline which continued to pump petrol into the tank for around 40 minutes after it began to overflow. An estimated 300 additional tonnes of petrol was pumped into, and subsequently spilled from, the tank before the fire broke out. I'm not sure of how the tanker ship fills the North Ness tank or its capacity (anybody know?), but certainly nothing comparable to Buncefield.


The leak was quietly evapourating forming a large vapour cloud of petroleum and air which was trapped over the site because of no wind weather conditions, and iirc a high air pressure system locking it in place. As to what actually provided the ignition I don't know, but the Buncefield site was levelled by the vapour cloud detonating like an airburst bomb. Incidentally the US Air Force have this kind of process packaged into what they call a "Gas and Air" bomb. I think it was shown in the movie "Outbreak" and I'm told by someone who claims to be in the know that the effect on the screen was if anything understated.


The chances though of a vapour cloud forming at North Ness is very very low. The chances of an unnoticed spill from the single significantly smaller than those at Buncefield unleaded petrol tank is very very low. IMHO the Buncefield incident and North Ness cannot possibly be compared in any meaningful manner, except of course to note that they both store fuel.


Here's a thought, while I and my colleagues don't work at the North Ness site, are we still safe and insured when working on a problem in a building on that site? Should we refuse to work there unless assurances of safety and insurance are made? And if those assurances are forthcoming, then why are we worrying about the tanks at all?


Methinks someone's clever idea of blocking developments using the fuel tank issue is not far from coming apart. Either we'll have to clear the site completely or there is no legitimate objection to new developments - you can't have it both ways.

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It indeed seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut - and a typical knee-jerk reaction to cover the HSE's backside in todays sue and blame culture. Until such time as the HSE actually legislate that the tanks have to be moved so as to minimise any potential risk or talk of the SIC paying for their relocation comes to fruition, I'd suspect they won't be shifting.


Notwithstanding my opposition to the principle of a publicly subsidised CMV, lets hope this can be resolved soon. It would be good to see the North Ness developed to a fuller potential than it has achieved so far with (the Museum and Archives aside) some better quality architecture and a broader mix of uses to help inject some much needed life and activity into the area outside working hours.

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I think it was shown in the movie "Outbreak"

Whilst watching that film, I wittily nicknamed the plane that dropped that bomb the 'Ebola Gay'; nobody got it. :roll:


Nice one. I doubt through that Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark would have bothered with a song. One thing though, the Shetlink system picked me up on my spelling of maneuver - that doesn't look right. Is it a US variant?

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A press release we just received...


A public meeting to bring together people living and working within the new development zones around the North Ness Fuel Tanks will be held in the Lerwick Town Hall from 6pm - 7pm on Wednesday 13th February 2008. The meeting will be chaired Alistair Carmichael MP.


The meeting seeks to bring together those affected by the new HSE guidance, explain its background and understand more fully its potential implications.


Gwilym Gibbons Director of Shetland Arts said "The revised guidance relating to risks around large scale petrol storage sites has a significant impact on development within the area of the tanks. For us there is a big issue for Mareel Shetland's new music, cinema and education centre. We also have an interest in the Garrison Theatre which lies within the 400m zone of the tanks. Clearly a large proportion of the town is affected by the new guidance. We are keen to hear from other business, organisations and individuals affected so together we can seek an urgent review by the HSE of the risks from the North Ness site".


Shetland Arts received written confirmation from the HSE last week that "... the likelihood of serious incidents that also affect off-site is extremely low, particularly compared to other risks encountered in daily life. And, for comparison, the North Ness depot holds only a very small percentage of the amount of petrol held by the Buncefield group of sites".


However despite this apparent statement of safety the current restriction of development within the area on the grounds of safety is in force.

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It's funny in this context that nobody has dragged up the old chestnut of what would happen if one of the SVT gas tanks went up, unless they are all empty now ???


I seem to recall the old urban legend was that everything would be flattened as far as Firth, windows and structural damage as far as brae and some effects further south/north. Wouldn't like to be staying in Ollaberry or Sullom if there was a bang. :wink:


I recall when a crude tank was hit by lightning and went up, the strike wiping out all the operator control panels as well, meaning that the actual news that a tank was on fire came from the bridge of a tanker berthed at the jetties. Scary stuff!





Me? Scaremongering? No! :P

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The tanks at Sullom hold oil that has largely been de-gassed it would take something pretty major to cause them to explode. A spectacular fire on the other hand is always possible, the smoke would be a greater risk to most folks health than the fire itself.

Crude oil is suprisingly difficult to get burning but once it is heated up it is one bar steward to put out.

To ensure complete burning during a well test we vapourise the oil by mixixng it with high pressure air and forcing it through nozzles, even then we sometimes mix in diesel to aid combustion, so I would not worry too much about Sullom blowing North Roe of the map.

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What are your thoughts with the HSE decision to shut the proposed North Ness theme park developments down.


Has Mareel finally hit the brakes and saved us £12 million or whatever, or will Sandy and co just pay the fuel depot whatever they want to move them out and continue with the attractions we can't afford?


I suspect the latter!

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