Industrial fire brigade responders put a portable flaring stack into operation in western Germany when a railroad tank car began leaking hazmat in the form of liquefied gas.
Sometime after 10 a.m. on October 16, firefighters with the Marl Chemical Park in Marl responded to the scene of the hazmat emergency in Gelsenkirchern, 26 kilometers south, both in North Rhine-Westphalia, local media report. The danger zone included the southern portion of Gladbeck, a town neighboring Gelsenkirchern.
“There has been leakage (from) a liquid boiler truck,” the Gelsenkirchern Facebook page reports. “At the moment, forces of the fire brigade Gelsenkirchen, Gladbeck fire brigade, the factory fire brigade of the Marl chemical park and the OV THW Gelsenkirchen are in action. Pumping into a spare boiler wagon is currently being prepared.”
Flammable liquefied gas must be contained in a pressurized and temperature-controlled storage vessel. If the pressurized liquid reaches temperatures higher than the liquid’s boiling point an powerful explosion known as a BLEVE (Boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion) occurs.
At 8:20 p.m., a pumping operation began removing liquid from the damaged tank car, transferring it to a new tank car. To remove any buildup of excess gas during the transfer, a flaring stack or torch was ignited.
“Colleagues at the Marl chemical park fire brigade have started adjusting the pressure,” the Facebook page reports. “To do this, some of the gas must be burned off in a controlled manner. This is done via a gas torch.”
Emergency personnel needed an extensive portable lighting setup provided by the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, a civil protection organization, to operate through the night.
By 7 a.m. Saturday the situation had stabilized to the point that evacuated resident could return home. Area road closures were also lifted. However, gas continued to be burned using the portable torch.
“The boiler wagon was emptied to the extent that the pump track could be taken out of service,” the Facebook page states.
However, work continued at the emergency site until 12:15 a.m. when the liquid gas boiler wagon was towed away.
The fire brigade from Marl is a member of the chemical industry’s transport accident information and response system. Known as TUIS, the agency offers rapid assistance when transport accidents involving chemicals and other acutely hazardous situations arise.
In Germany, 130 industrial fire brigades participate in the agency. Sponsored by the German Chemical Industry Association, the voluntary service is available 24-hours a day nationwide.
The Marl Chemical Park in Dorsten covers more than six square kilometers and is the third largest integrated industrial site Germany. It serves 17 small to medium sized enterprises operating nearly 100 production plants there.
It is also the largest production site for Evonik Industries, a specialty chemical manufacturer that ranks as the second biggest chemical company in Germany.