Sunday, February 6, 2022

Environment and Chemical Safety

This week, two articles from opposite coasts help focus attention on the need for reviewing chemical safety measures to ensure that changing environmental conditions are taken into account in facility safety planning. The first looked at how an unusually heavy rainfall caused a refinery shutdown in California. The second looked at studies that indicate the combination of high storm surges and increased rainfall in East Coast hurricanes will contribute to increased severity and extent of flooding.

As Arkema learned in 2017, safety measures relying on old climate models do not hold up to the faster and more extensive flooding seen with the unusually heavy rains seen in recent years. The refinery shutdown in California introduces another potential threat from these heavier rains, structural failure of roofs. That combined with power losses due to increased damage to power transmission lines will pose new and increased safety challenges.

Facilities with outdoor chemical storage will also have to be concerned with the increased flow of water into chemical containment zones. They will need to ensure that their drainage pumping capabilities are able to keep up with the higher max rainfall rates that can be expected in many areas of the country.

Companies will have to relook at all of their chemical safety measures to ensure that the new weather conditions are properly accounted for. Assumptions about maximum rainfall rates and wind speeds as well as flood zones will need to be clearly identified and experts contacted to determine if those assumptions remain reasonable. Higher maximum and average temperature will also have impacts on facility cooling capabilities which could have impacts on facility safety concerns.

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