What happens if Pembina’s propane terminal explodes?

Competing reports predict what would happen if Pembina’s proposed propane terminal were to explode.

Share this article!


Competing reports predict what would happen if Pembina’s proposed propane terminal were to explode.

A study conducted by neighbors predicts widespread damage while a report commissioned by the company says any potential failure is impossible, the Portland Business Journal reports.

A summary of Pembina’s study:

Pembina commissioned a Quantitative Risk Assessment by DNV GL to evaluate the worst case scenario, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency. Its 300-page report, supplied this week to the city, says the physics of propane coupled with the plant’s design and operational protocols renders the possibility of an explosion that extends beyond the site moot. The terminal’s safety features include double-walled refrigerated tanks, back up power to control and operations systems, the protection of operating on a site that falls under Department of Homeland Security supervision, seismic systems designed to withstand a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Portland, a pressure relief system, gas detection system and a rail fleet that relies on the most modern cars available.

The Northwest Citizen Science Initiative disagrees:

The report uses the ALOHA (Area Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres) program to model potential risks. The program is used by fire departments and others. The 60-plus page report concludes that the storage tanks could erupt in a domino fashion, creating a blast zone extending into populated areas. Such terminals should be at least 10 to 20 miles from populated areas, it says, concluding that Portland should reject the project.

The final hearing will be heard April 7 by the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission.

The  Portland Business Journal suggests the Pembina issue could “get snared by Portland’s climate action dreams?”

Pembina’s propane terminal is one of several fossil fuel projects proposed along the Columbia River. Collectively valued at more than $2 billion, the projects would transform the Columbia into a key westbound corridor for moving coal, liquefied natural gas and crude to the West Coast and points beyond. The propane terminal is the sole project in Portland city limits. For its part, Pembina and port officials cast the project as inherently green. Oregon classifies propane as a clean fuel and Pembina says it would chiefly displace wood and coal as a fuel source for residences and industry in Asia.

As it happens. fossil fuel export terminals are called out in a draft version of the 2015 Climate Action Plan. The plan, a joint effort of the city and Multnomah County, spells out steps needed to reduce the area’s carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The original plan dates to 1993 and is credited with helping Portland trim overall emissions by 14 percent even as the population expanded by 20 percent.