BUNKERING AND SAFETY
Hazards associated with LPG bunkering is different to usual marine fuels. If released at normal ambient temperature and pressure, it forms a flammable vapor. So, the release of LPG should be prevented at all stages during the bunkering process.
There are several safeguards to be followed for the bunkering process. LPG, being denser than air, will collect in low areas in case of any spillage. This makes the usual methods of detection and ventilation for leaks unusable for LPG. LPG is a low-flash-point liquid, and when used in a high-fire-risk space of the ship with a constant personnel presence, like in the engine room, a double-walled pipeline must be used as secondary containment. Hydrocarbon detectors will detect any leakage and contain the fuel within the secondary containment before it reaches areas where humans are present. Double-walled pipelines must be used below the deck line. Another important point to be noted is that the auto ignition point of LPG is 490 degrees Celsius.
Some of the main hazards related to LPG bunkering can be listed as follows.
Formation of a flammable vapor cloud: Although LPG in its liquid form cannot explode or burn, leakages in confined spaces can lead to formation of a vapor cloud in the air which might catch fire or cause disastrous explosion in the presence of an ignition source.
Overfilling or over-pressuring: If the operator keeps filling the tank when it is already full, it can lead to over-pressure in the tanks.
Fracture damage to bunkering equipment: If any cargo falls on the equipment or any other external impact is caused due to accidents or collision of ships, bunkering equipment can be damaged which in turn raises chances of leakage and explosion.
Common causes are listed in the table below:
LPG BUNKERING IN PORTS
LPG spills are a major concern in port area with many personnel and high chances of fire and explosion. Port areas may be utilized for simultaneous operations like loading/unloading cargo and personnel from the ship, maintenance and other logistical operations while a ship is bunkering. This makes the risk assessment and prevention all the more complicated.
MITIGATION AND PREVENTION
A collection of safeguards was developed based on a thorough evaluation of LPG regulations, codes and standards, which are designed to prevent accidental releases of LPG, prevent certain initiating events from occurring and also to mitigate certain types of consequences.
Standardised connections are mandatory at bunkering station to prevent inadvertent leaks or hose disconnects. Independent high-level alarms on vessel fuel tanks need to be installed to alert operators prior to tank overfill. Separate high-level switch initiates emergency shutdown (ESD). Periodic inspection and testing of equipment prior to bunkering ensures system is functional and that there are no leaks. Periodic testing and certification of hoses are done to ensure hoses and fittings will not leak or disconnect during transfer. Ship-to-shore communications availability is secured so that information can be shared between parties involved in bunkering (e.g., person in charge, ship crew, truck driver). Constant supervision by persons in charge on both vessel and facility will minimise the risk further.
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