Risks and Hazards
What are the risks?
LNG processing and transport is inherently risky due to the high flammability of the methane itself and the other potentially explosive petroleum products that LNG plants use to refine and refrigerate the gas.
If LNG spills near an ignition source, evaporating gas will burn above the LNG pool and expand as the LNG continues to evaporate. This “pool fire” is intense, burning far more hotly and rapidly than oil or gasoline, and the thermal radiation it produces is capable of injuring people and damaging property even a considerable distance from the fire itself.
If LNG spills but does not immediately ignite, the LNG will form a vapor cloud that may drift miles from the spill site. At gas-to-air concentrations of 5 to 15 percent, this cloud will catch fire if it encounters an ignition source, eventually burning its way back to the LNG spill.
Recent LNG disasters
The worst recent disaster occurred in Skikda, Algeria in 2004. An explosion there caused by a leak in the refrigeration process killed 30 workers and injured 70 others.
A March 31, 2014 explosion at an LNG plant in Plymouth, Washington injured 5 workers. Because the explosion punctured an LNG storage tank, more than 200 people living in a 2-mile radius had to be evacuated. The local fire chief estimated that had the gas exploded, everyone within three-quarters of a mile of the plant would have been killed.
What dangers do LNG tankers pose?
The LNG tanker ships used to transport the gas represent yet another hazard. Although no LNG tanker has yet been breached, a study by Sandia National Laboratories sets a series of hazard zones around tankers. These zones depend on whether the breach is accidental or deliberate.
Sea level rise, hurricanes and flood risk for LNG
Given that there is a whopping 1-in-6 chance that a combination of higher sea levels, storm surge and high tide will overtop 4 feet by 2020 in the Port Isabel Area, according to Climate Change Central, it would be accurate to say that the LNG plants will be in jeopardy on their first day of operation. If these volatile facilities with hazardous chemicals are flooded by storm surge or damaged by high winds, the results could be catastrophic