Bharat Petroleum plans to reconstruct damaged tank on Butcher Island after lightning strike

Jan 02, 2018, 10:40 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

This year, Bharat Petroleum plans to reconstruct tank no.13, damaged in a fire that broke out following a lightning strike on Butcher Island

The tank, which has a capacity of 32,000 metric tonnes, was filled to the brim with high-speed diesel oil when it was struck by lightning, catching fire, in October
The tank, which has a capacity of 32,000 metric tonnes, was filled to the brim with high-speed diesel oil when it was struck by lightning, catching fire, in October

It took teams of the fire brigade and Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) three days to control the fire that broke out in tank number 13 of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) at Butcher Island on October 6. At the time of the incident, the tank, which had a capacity of 32,000 metric tonnes, was filled to the brim with high-speed diesel oil. While there were no casualties, the tank was irreversibly damaged in a lightning strike, which led to the fire. Come 2018 and the BPCL will spend over Rs 25 crore to reconstruct the damaged tank.

The tank, which has a capacity of 32,000 metric tonnes, was filled to the brim with high-speed diesel oil when it was struck by lightning, catching fire, in October

The plans
Besides the damaged tank, two other tanks, placed adjacent to the damaged one, would be replaced, in keeping with safety norms. Confirming the development, a senior BPCL official said, "Work on the new tank will commence in 2018. We will invite tenders for the project in January. The lowest bidder, who meets the technical specifications and safety requirements, will be chosen for the project. We have already submitted a detailed plan of action to the management for approval. Funds for the project will be released in phases, as special allocation may be required in BPCL's financial budget, which will be sanctioned by April 2018."

According to the official, a high-level probe committee from the Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD) has submitted their report on the blaze to the Union Petroleum Ministry and the BPCL chairman. "The Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) has also made some recommendations to prevent a repeat of the incident," the official said.

What went wrong?
Without divulging anything about the probe's conclusions, M Gupta, OISD additional director (refinery), who was one of the committee experts in the probe, confirmed that their department has submitted the report. A senior BPCL official, however, said, "The report states that the roof of the storage tank, which was built in 1984, may have suffered corrosion over the years, which allowed the lightning to cause the blaze."

Following the third inspection at the incident spot by OISD, experts had said that the tank had a conductor to protect it from lighting. Therefore, several officials had expressed concerns about how the fire broke out, as the tank that caught fire had a fixed lid, unlike the floating HPCL tank that had caught fire a few months ago in Visakhapatnam. The OISD report's findings answer the confusion.

Remedial measures
According to BPCL sources, the estimated loss due to the fire was approximately Rs 80 crore. "Besides the tank, radar gauges and hydro-carbon detectors were also destroyed. We have installed the high volume long range (HVLR) monitors, which were recommended by MV Lal Committee report two years ago. Of the eleven tanks at the Island, three stored high-speed diesel oil (one of which was damaged) and the remaining right contained furnace oil. The cost of rebuilding the new tank is estimated to be around Rs 25 crore. As per the new safety norms, we can either do away with one of the tanks or make the size of the new tank smaller. We are hoping to get the tank ready by the end of 2018. It should be operational soon after," the officer said.

70
No. of hours the tank was on fire

50
No. of CISF personnel responsible for the island's security

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