Several years ago many people in the marine industry either did not know about LNG or did not think that it would amount to anything worth more than a passing interest. At that time there were just four LNG import terminals in the and even they were underutilized.
Today there are eight LNG import terminals in operation with two more slated for their first “cool down” shipments this year or early next year. In addition there is an LNG facility in just over the boarder where companies are also operation. There are also currently many applications, which have been approved, for new LNG facilities within the and or just off-shore.
Even with the slow down in LNG imports due to the recent economic downturn, LNG is expected to continue its rapid growth. Hence the huge investment in LNG ships, facilities and tugs designed for this industry.
For the marine industry this has meant extraordinary growth in the tug boat fleets who will be escorting the new massive LNG carriers into our ports. Tens of millions of dollars have been invested to upgrade the tug fleets to meet the stringent safety requirements set by the LNG industry. That industry has enjoyed one of the most exemplary safety records of any marine shipper of petroleum or gas products.
Their demands include that state-of-the-art firefighting equipment be installed on the new tugs used to escort LNG ships. In addition, the tug crews must receive training to familiarize them with the safe use of that equipment and also with the properties of the LNG product they are being asked to assist into dock.
Marine Firefighting Inc. has been providing that familiarization over the past seven years for most of the tug boat companies involved in the LNG trade and in five of the LNG facilities the and one in .
LNG is a cryogenic liquid formed when natural gas is cooled to minus 260 degrees F (160 degrees C.). It is a colorless and odorless product which is not under pressure while being transported aboard ship. The tug crews are taught that this product will only burn when it is in the gaseous state and, even then, only when it is between five and fifteen percent in the atmosphere. Below five percent it is too lean to burn and above fifteen percent it is too rich to burn.
The tug crews are taught that their new firefighting equipment, which satisfies the requirements for a Fi Fi 1 class firefighting vessel with more than 10,000 gallons of water per minute capacity, will not extinguish an LNG fire. The main extinguishing agent for an LNG fire is dry chemical. In fact, the indiscriminant use of water on an LNG spill or fire might actually make the situation worse!
This is why the familiarization training is so important. Tug crews need to know how their massive fire pumps and fire monitors might be used during an emergency. They are shown that, other than for their own safety, they are to do nothing at an LNG fire or emergency unless they receive a request to do so by the “person-in-charge” of the off-loading operation. Without coordination of this training among the tug crews, the LNG vessel’s crew, and the facility’s crew the response to an emergency might not be successful.
To determine the compatibility of the three different forms of training given to these three different partners in the marine transfer Marine Firefighting Inc. recently ran a full scale scenario at an operating LNG facility. Due to this drill, many recommendations were made and implemented that would insure that all three entities involved in the marine transfer of LNG were operating on the same game plan and each had the proper equipment to insure a coordinated operation.
The Fi Fi 1 equipment on the new tugs also serves to protect the tug’s crew. The massive monitors can be used, in a disbursed spray, to actually direct a gas vapor cloud away from the tug or from a source of ignition. Deluge systems aboard the tugs can act as a sprinkler system to continuously wet the metal surfaces of the boat to prevent the embrittlement effect of the LNG should it come in direct contact with the tug.
As we recover from the economic slump the LNG industry will continue its growth which will provide work within the marine community in the years ahead. Understanding the product and its characteristics as well as having a good knowledge of the new tools the tug boat crews will work with will help to continue the envious safety record of the LNG industry and insure jobs for the future. To keep that safety record all partners of the marine transfer of LNG must have on-going training that is coordinated between all the parties involved.
About the Author
Tom is a retired Lieutenant of the New York City Fire Department's Marine Division. During the last ten years of his 34-year career he also acted in the capacity of Training Officer for the FDNY Marine Division. Tom held a US Coast Guard License as a Ships Master and is certified as a Fire instructor both within and Nationally in the .
He is currently a participating member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) Fishing Vessel Operations and Safety panel and also their Small Working Vessel Operations and Safety panel. Tom is also a Principal Member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Merchant Vessels.
His articles on Marine Firefighting have been published both nationally and internationally. E-mail Tom at MarineFires@aol.com