Propane leak forces evacuation - News

KIHEI, Maui>> Hundreds of people were evacuated and traffic was redirected for several hours yesterday in the residential heart of the coastal town of Kihei, Maui, as a result of a propane leak on a tanker ... Read more

Pahoa, HI

#1 Jan 29, 2009
There are valves everywhere on a LPG tanker right up to the main Fisher valve that shuts the whole thing off at the tank itself should a major leak occur. Apparently this was a minor leak to the point where the tanker could be towed away instead of the standard 1/4-mile radius evacuation distance.

There are so many safeguards both automatically or manually to be able to shut down and isolate the flow of gas thruout the system.

The purging of liquidfied petroleum was probably isolated to just a small section and not the entire contents of the tanker's load in order for the tanker to be successfully towed away and probably posed no catastrophic threat to the surrounding area due to the limitations of the lower and upper limits of flammability of the gas in relation to the air around it.

If that wasn't the case and the entire contents of that tanker couldn't be isolated, then something is very wrong with the safety controls on that tanker. It is not uncommon for a Fisher valve to get stuck in the open position with no ability to close itself due to excessive flow. But these valves are SUPPOSED to be checked periodically to ensure safe operation. This valve represents the last and worst case scenerio where all piping has been compromised and there is nothing left between the exit point of the tank and the leak. The Fisher valve is located at the belly of the tank's underside thus it is commonly referred to as a Belly Valve. If that valve fails, there is nothing that can be done to stop the tank from emptying it's pressurized load, hence it is required to be checked periodically.

Hopefully the leak was small enough where it could be contained within the piping on the tanker's bobtail. That is roughly 100 lbs of LPG or five barbecue grill tanks. If it wasn't, then the Gas Company has some answering to do to the PUC for failure of the tanker's multitude of safety shutoff devices both automatic and manual. And yes the tanker can be remotely shut down at the main valve from a safe distance. That was a Federal DOT requirement.

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