Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CSB Looked at Bayer Blast Protection

Earlier this week I did a short blog post about the Chemical Safety Board’s report on the deadly Bayer CropScience process explosion [which is no longer available on the CSB site]. The lengthy report has a wealth of information that should be read by chemical safety personnel. While this is a chemical safety report, there is also a very valuable section of potential interest to security professionals dealing with the design of the blast protection provided to the above-ground methyl isocyanate (MIC) day tank.

Reading Appendix C to this report, I was impressed with the efforts that the facility designers took to protect that day tank from the potential effects of an explosion or fire in the vicinity of the tank. I have been a frequent critic of the response of Bayer CropScience management to this incident, but there is no doubt that the people designing the facility understood the potential risks associated with MIC and made an honest and expensive effort to reduce the risks associated with that material and mitigate potential releases.

The only real shortcoming, in hind sight, was that the blast protection design only looked at accidental fires and explosions; it didn’t consider potential attacks on the system. High-risk chemical facilities (which technically the CropScience facility isn’t since it is an MTSA covered facility [in West Virginia?]) need to reconsider the safety designs at their facility in light of the potential risks of terrorist attack.

For example, when considering blast protection requirements one would have to consider if the tank (or whatever critical process element) is positioned in such a way to make it vulnerable to potential vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. If it is so exposed, the design basis for the blast protection needs to account for that sized potential explosion.

In any case, anyone that is responsible for safety or security at a facility containing large containers of toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemicals should read Appendix C to the Bayer CropScience report by CSB.

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