Tuesday, November 6, 2007

DHS increases the number of flammable chemicals regulated under CFATS

While there are many that have complained about DHS relaxing its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) with the publication of the revised Appendix A (including my complaints about the treatment of propane), it seems to have escaped general notice that DHS has potentially expanded the number of chemicals that is has included in the release-flammables category.


In the original Appendix A only the specific chemicals listed in the Appendix would be used to determine whether or not a facility had to complete a Top Screen under Section 27.200(b)(2). In my comments to DHS on the proposed Appendix A, I recommended that DHS adopt something similar to the DOT “Not Otherwise Specified” classification to capture those chemicals with a similar hazard to the listed chemicals (see page 82 of the Final Rule). DHS rejected that idea saying that: “…DHS has included chemicals on the COI list if they are uniquely identifiable” (page 83).


While it may be true that they only included uniquely identifiable chemicals on the list of chemicals in Appendix A, they also added a mixture rule {§ 27.204(a)(2)} that could  bring a number of less identifiable commercial chemicals under the STQ counts for some of those identified chemicals. According to DHS this mixture rule says that:


“…if a release-flammable chemical of interest is present in a mixture in a concentration equal to or greater than one percent (1%) by weight of the mixture, and the mixture has a NFPA flammability hazard rating of 4, the facility shall count the entire weight of the mixture toward the STQ” (page 27).


This means that if a company manufactures, uses, or stores a chemical that has an NFPA flammability rating of 4 (gasoline or various solvents for example) and that product contains a chemical listed as a release-flammable chemical (more than 80 chemicals) in Appendix A at more than 1% of the amount of that commercial chemical, then the facility must count the entire amount of that commercial chemical as part of weight of the “uniquely identifiable” chemical found in Appendix A when calculating the STQ. Of course, mixtures that are not rated NFPA-4 will only have the weight of the component listed in Appendix A counted in the STQ calculations.


The point is, of course, that these flammable chemicals, if released will form fuel air mixtures that could be easily detonated and cause harm to the facility and surrounding community. This makes these mixtures as much of a potential terrorist weapon as the pure chemicals that go into them.


DHS carries this a step further when it comes to fuels. While gasoline is not listed in Appendix A, various components of gasoline and other fossil fuels are listed. In § 27.203(b)(1)(v) the mixture rule for release-flammables is extended to fuels with NFPA ratings lower than 4; all the way down to combustible fuels with an NFPA rating of 1. DHS addresses this on page 4 of the final rule:


“….facilities must also include chemicals of interest in fuels when stored in above-ground tank farms (italics mine), including tank farms that are part of pipeline systems. See § 27.203(b)(1)(v). This includes fuels with any one of the four National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) flammability hazard ratings and not just fuels with a NFPA flammability hazard rating of 4.”


Fuels, because of their nature and the common understanding of their potentially explosive nature, are a more recognizable target than many of the chemicals listed in Appendix A. Additionally, the large amounts of fuels used means that the tank farms for these materials usually hold very large quantities of these potentially dangerous chemicals. This makes these tank farms an even more attractive potential terrorist target.


Fuels may be a problem for facilities that have fuel tanks on site for use in boilers and heating equipment. Most of these facilities are not going to have any idea what components of the fuel might be listed on Appendix A or which of these chemicals might be present in concentrations in excess of 1%. DHS might want to address this issue in further communications to users of distilled fossil fuels.


I don’t think that anyone has any idea how many chemicals will be brought into the STQ counts with these new mixture rules. The way that the Top Screen was set-up would not have allowed DHS to determine the difference between mixtures and the pure compounds. The hopefully the soon to be published new Top Screen may require a breakout of the mixtures to allow DHS to see how much this change has affected the number of facilities that are included in the Top Screen requirement.

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