Marine Firefighting Inc.
Newsletter # 29
LNG Training for First Responders
By Tom Guldner (FDNY ret.) President of Marine Firefighting Inc.
I have written in the past about Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) being Imported into and now Exported out of the USA. This dealt with the training I have been providing for the past 16-years to mariners and First Responders located in the port cities where these LNG marine facilities are located.
Recently, Marine Firefighting Inc. has started a program training LNG for First Responders who are located in areas remote from these ports and waterways. LNG is now not only a commodity being transported via ships it is now being transported by road and rail as well.
And it is not only just being transported. In Europe and the USA many ships, boats, trucks, busses, locomotives and even large pieces of construction equipment and generators are being fueled with LNG.
In the USA, the Jacksonville Florida the Port Authority and private marine companies have set up LNG bunkering1 facilities for new LNG fueled ships. Currently the LNG is being trucked into the facility in ISO2 cryogenic Intermodal containers. The trucks are lined up next to the ship and then hoses deliver the LNG into the ships fuel tanks. The ships being bunkered are container ships used in the Jacksonville to Puerto Rico run. The LNG is not only in the fuel tanks; many LNG ISO tanks are hoisted aboard along with the other container cargo for delivery to Puerto Rico it is used to fuel generators for the Coca Cola bottling company.
The training in Jacksonville was for both First Responders, as well as the Mariners and facility personnel who will be involved in the LNG bunkering.
In the photo on the left I am delivering that class to the Jacksonville Fire Department and other Jacksonville First Responders. Remember, First Responders other than Firefighters also need this training. Police, EMS, Emergency Management Coordinators and others may be on the scene. These people need to know what to do and more importantly, what not to do. Entering an area with a flammable vapor cloud present may make that first responder's vehicle the source of ignition.
My training programs have now been adapted to train First Responders who may encounter LNG fueled vehicles at a road or highway accident or an incident on the rails. The vehicle you may now encounter might not only be transporting LNG in its tank or in the intermodal container it is transporting, but it may also have LNG fuel tanks at the cab of the truck, on the roof of the bus, or in the tender car3 behind the LNG fueled locomotive.
And, that's just the vehicles! All of these LNG fueled vehicles will need to re-fuel someplace, so there will need to be LNG fuel stations on the highways and along the railroad right of way.
Training for First Responders must first inform about the properties of this super cold product and also the hazards of the LNG. Many of the physical properties that make LNG a great fuel which is safe under normal conditions may also present major problems to First Responders who must deal with LNG at an accident where things are not normal.
For instance, the reason that the natural gas was converted into a liquid in the first place was to reduce its size. That reduction would then make it feasible to ship around the world. When LNG converts to a liquid its volume is reduced 600 times. (Graphic left) This works in the favor of those who want to ship the LNG or to store it for future use.
But what happens when we First Responders arrive at an LNG emergency? If the tank is leaking and there is no fire, the liquid will flash to a gas and it will now EXPAND 600 times. A small liquid leak can present a major vapor plume. And if the product is on fire then the fire can intensify 600 times as the liquid flashes to a gas and is ignited.
The natural gas is converted to a liquid by refrigeration unlike LPG4 , which uses pressure to liquefy the gas. When the gas reaches -260 F (-160 C) it turns to a liquid at atmospheric pressure. Here we First Responders have another problem. Human tissue will freeze at these temperatures. The freeze burns may resemble burns from a fire but are actually more like frost bite. So our First responders cannot come into direct contact with the liquid. In fact, none of our equipment can be exposed to the cold liquid either. Common steel will become brittle at those temperatures. Even the decks of ships can crack so it would be the same for your fireboat and responding apparatus. First responders should also no come into contact with the extreme cold piping and hoses or they will receive those same freeze burns.
There are many other properties of LNG which can present problems for First Responders which are covered in the class.
OK, in the training we will first teach everything a First Responder needs to know about the properties of LNG. Next we need to know about the tanks that are holding the LNG. Luckily for us, cryogenic tanks are specifically made for this super cold product. The tanks are, in effect, thermos bottles with an inner shell of stainless or high nickel content steel. Those are the only metals which can come in contact with the cold liquid. As mentioned before, any other metal would become brittle and crack when chilled to the extremely low temperatures. Next the inner tank is covered with an insulation to keep the LNG cold. Over this will be an outer tank of other types of steel. Once the outer tank is in place the area between the two tanks where the insulation is located is vacuum sealed.
All of this combines to make these cryogenic tanks much more robust than the single walled LPG tanks and gasoline tanks with which we are familiar. In a fire, the possibility of a B.L.E.V.E.5 is much less likely.
There have been cases of busses and trucks being completely consumed and the melted in a fire which did not cause the LNG tanks to explode. Much of the tank safety information is being put out by the tank manufactures but they must comply with local and international regulations. Now, granted, the tanks are designed to withstand direct flame impingement for a considerably longer time than LPG tanks. In fact, they must be tested to do this. There are also drop tests to check their resistance to damage.
However, we are First Responders. Many of us have witnessed some horrific scenes of disaster at accident sites. We have seen cars, trucks, busses, railroad locomotives, and rail cars twisted and mangled into unrecognizable shapes. We need to know that if the outer shell of a cryogenic tank is compromised in any way that the inner tank may be subject to the same B.L.E.V.E. conditions of the LPG.
There are other cryogenic tank safeguards which I do discuss such as a redundant Pressure Relief system which is designed to allow excess pressures to vent and not rupture the tank. I even have videos of the tank of a bus venting a huge flame from the tanks pressure relief valve until the entire contents of the tank were consumed. The tank did not explode and the photo on the right shows the intact tank surrounded by the melted bus. (Photo right)
Next on the training schedule, in the Operations Level Training, is the actual tactical examples for road and rail incidents. Long before you get too close to one of these incidents you need to begin to set up your strategy. Can you approach? Should you approach. If you don't have the capabilities to operate it may be best to back away and evacuate the area. Of course, all to the priorities we use at every fire will determine you course of action, if it is safe to do so. These actions in order of priority are Life, Locate, Confine, Exposures, Extinguish, Overhaul, and then I add Critique. Every fire or emergency you respond to should be the subject of a Critique whether at the scene or back at the firehouse. Don't miss this golden training opportunity.
In my class's Command Level Training we also discuss the Size Up criteria which an Incident Commander should use to set up a fire or emergency operation. When I was a young Lieutenant studying for promotion I learned many Acronym's6. The Acronym I used for an Incident Commander's Size-Up was, COAL WAS WEALTH. The letters stand for……
Now, this Acronym was originally designed to work with the Size-Up for a structural fire but I have adapted it for use in my "Shipboard Firefighting" training programs and now for my "LNG for the First Responder" training program. In the class we go into each step in more detail so that the IC can make informed decisions.
Again, all of these steps are only if it is safe to do so. Backing away from a possible B.L.E.V.E. may be your best and safest option. Size up will list things that an Incident Commander will need to take into consideration to set up a plan at the start of an operation. It cannot be an unchanging plan. As all First Responders know, any emergency situation can change without notice. A fire strategy must be able to change along with any situational changes. In Incident Command Procedures the IC should take advantage of the PLANNING module so that action plans for other eventualities can be set up in advance. This "What If" approach can be a vital tool for an incident commander in the event
If you are going to operate you need to set up an initial strategy. Are you going to set up an OFFENSIVE or a DEFENSIVE attack? Regardless of your attack mode, you need to know if you have the resources to conduct such an attack.
Either attack mode will require large quantities of water if the LNG has not spilled and pooled. The class learns that water will not extinguish and LNG fire. In fact, it may make matters much worse. The LNG will evaporate at a certain rate depending on whether it is spilled on the water or the ground. By you adding water, the evaporation rate will be greatly increased and if the LNG is on fire the flame will also increase in intensity. Quite a bit of knowledge is needed to fight an LNG fire. In fact, it is very often better to just let the LNG burn off, if that is possible.
If the LNG has not leaked but the tanks are involved in a fire, then you will need copious amounts of water. The NFPA has recommended a minimum of 500 gallons (1892 liters) of water per minute on each point of impingement for fires involving rail containers. Do you have sufficient water supply and do you have sufficient monitors to supply that water from a safe distance? Most high capacity water streams are not capable of throwing water from distances considered safe at possible B.LE.V.E. situations. In that case it might be best to setup unmanned monitors. (Photo left credit Saudi ARAMCO). If that is not possible, do not disregard safety guidelines just because you do not have the needed equipment or resources. If that is the case evacuate the area.
No First Responder can be expected to operate safely if they lack the knowledge of the products involved in the fire or emergency. Once we know the properties we will be able to understand the hazards and set up safe operations based on the risks those hazards present. Knowledge is the key. If you are presented with an LNG emergency remember, if you do not have the capability to handle the situation and the conditions permit, it may be better to evacuate and watch from a safe distance. Even if you do have the capabilities, if you feel that it is too dangerous to proceed with strictly a firefighting operation then don't. If there is no life at risk - don't risk yours of those under your direction.
1 Bunkering is the maritime term used for re-fueling ships.
2 International Organization for Standardization
3 In the past, a tender or coal-car is a special rail vehicle hauled by a steam locomotive containing its fuel (wood, coal, or oil) and water. It will now be updated to include an LNG fuel tank car behind or between locomotives.
4 Liquefied Petroleum Gas
5 Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion
6 An Acronym is a word or name formed with the first letter of several words you need to commit to memory.
Why not let Marine Firefighting Inc set up your own Marine Firefighting training. For firefighting on ships or boats of all sizes we can design a program to meet your Fire Department or Marine Company's needs.
Tom Guldner is a retired Lieutenant of the New York City Fire Department's Marine Division. Tom held a US Coast Guard License as a Ships Master and is certified as a Fire instructor both within New York State and Nationally in the USA.
He is currently a participating member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) Fishing Vessel Operations and Safety panel and also their Small Working Vessel Operations and Safety panel. Tom is also a Principal Member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Merchant Vessels. His articles on Marine Firefighting have been published both nationally and internationally. Tom's company Marine Firefighting Inc. is involved in consulting and training mariners and land-based firefighters in all aspects of marine firefighting. E-mail Tom at MarineFires@aol.com
Tom is certifief by BNSF Railroad as a HazMat instructor in LNG Awareness and Emergency Response and also in "Railroad Emergency Response HazMat Awareness"
Please leave you comments about this article (Good or Bad) in my Guest Book. Or give me your comments about any future topics you would like to see. If you prefer, you can e-mail me by clicking on the letter to the right. MarineFires@aol.com
Why not have MFI deliver one of our Marine Firefighting training presentations at your next seminar, convention, or training session?
Don't forget that we can also consult with your Fire Department or MarineCompany on setting up your own ongoing Marine Firefighting Training program, Port risk analysis or emergency scenario. E-mail us now!
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