Long time readers of this blog will be well aware that I am a fan of the monthly Process Safety Beacon that is published by the Center for Chemical Process Safety. This month’s issue, Fireproofing Structural Supports, is a good example of why. They provide a small number of pictures that demonstrate the consequences of a safety issue along with short written description. Then they identify what workers and engineers at chemical processing facilities can do to avoid those consequences. While this monthly publication is directed at safety issues, it frequently identifies potential security issues. I have noted on a number of different occasions that one way to attack a release toxic storage tank is to start a fire using flammable chemicals stored nearby; chemicals that may not even make the list of release flammable COI. The Beacon notes that:
“Without fireproofing, exposed structural steel, such as the pipe rack support columns in the photograph at left, or the support columns in the photograph on the right, can rapidly lose strength and fail, possibly within minutes. The failure of the piping and equipment supports can break pipes or cause vessels to fail, releasing more flammable material, and causing a larger fire.”
The same thing could happen with pipes or vessels that contain other types of chemicals, including, of course, release toxic COI. If those COI were stored in pressure vessels, it might be difficult to cause a catastrophic release with other available means. This might mean that these types of fires would be the preferred method of attack.
As the Process Safety Beacon points out, protection of structural steel is a well understood process. Security managers might want to look at these structures around potential target tanks and piping to make sure that appropriate protections are provided.