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Concerns of safety around the globe

25 August 2011

Safety concerns have once again been at the forefront of the news, highlighted in North America by the The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) after it announced that it has declared Florida’s inaction and failure to adopt a CSB recommendation to provide federal-level workplace protections for state and municipal public workers an “unacceptable response.”

John Gale
John Gale

It is the first time that a CSB recommendation issued to a state and its legislature has been closed due to an unacceptable response by the recipient. At the same time, CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso called on the state to reconsider legislation that would provide adequate workplace protection for public employees.

The recommendation was originally issued by the CSB presidentially-appointed board in 2007 following an extensive investigation into a January 11, 2006, methanol fire and explosion at the Bethune Wastewater Treatment plant in Daytona Beach that killed two public employees and seriously injured a third.

Sparks from a welding torch used by Daytona Beach city workers above a tank of methanol ignited vapours that exploded. The CSB found that the if the city had implemented hot work and hazardous communication (HAZCOM) programmes conforming to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards, “the hazards of using a torch in proximity to the methanol tank would likely have been identified and possibly prevented.” In Florida, OSHA safety and health protections apply to private employees, but not public employees, even though many such workers perform potentially hazardous work.

In a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott, CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “Florida’s inaction is unacceptable as it means public employees doing potentially hazardous work have inadequate workplace protections – which they would have if they were private-sector workers. The CSB has found that currently 27 states and jurisdictions operate safety and health programmes for their public employees. There can be little doubt that these basic workplace standards help prevent accidents and save lives in those states.”

The CSB’s Bethune investigation found that in addition to the accident that occurred at the wastewater treatment plant in Daytona Beach, 33 other chemical-related incidents had occurred in Florida from 2003 to 2007. These incidents all involved chemicals that would be covered by the federal OSHA hazard communication regulations.

The Varanus gas explosion report withheld
In other news on the other side of the world the West Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum Norman Moore says he is keen to release a report into the Varanus Island gas explosion but legal advice is preventing him from doing so.

The explosion at Apache Energy's facilities in June 2008 cut the state's gas supply by 30 per cent and cost industry an estimated $2.5 billion.

Mr Moore says the report will be released once legal action against Apache Energy has concluded. "The legal advice we have is that by releasing the report we may in fact jeopardise the prosecution we have in train against Apache, the operators of Varanus," he said.

"I'm not prepared to make the report available in case that has an adverse affect on the government's point of view in respect to that prosecution."

Joint venture in Saudi Arabia
Dow Chemical Co. and Saudi Aramco are establishing a joint venture to build and operate an integrated chemicals complex in Jubail Industrial City, Saudi Arabia, the companies have announced.

The formation of the JV, called Sadara Chemical Co., follows a project feasibility study and front-end engineering and design effort which began in 2007. The complex will comprise 26 manufacturing units and built using Saudi Aramco’s project management and execution expertise. Employing Dow technologies, it will house flexible cracking capabilities and will produce over 3,000 ktpa of chemical and polymers.

The first production units will come on line in the second half of 2015, with all units expected to be up and running in 2016. Sadara is expected to deliver annual revenues of around $10 billion within a few years of operation.

Total investment for the project, including third party investments, will be approximately $20 billion. Sadara will become an equal JV between Saudi Aramco and Dow after an initial public offering. In addition to equity from the partners, Export Credit Agencies and financial institutions will provide project financing to Sadara.

The complex will include a world scale cracker that will be able to crack a wide range of feedstocks and be supplied by Saudi Aramco’s extensive integrated hydrocarbon infrastructure.

The manufacturing units will produce a wide range of performance products such as polyurethane raw materials (isocyanates, polyether polyols), propylene oxide, propylene glycol, elastomers, linear low density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, glycol ethers and amines.

John Gale

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