I called BP’s environmental hotline last evening, telling the woman who answered the phone call that I was hearing a rumbling noise that I have never heard before coming seemingly from BP Refinery, and the flares were going off and on, and it looked like it was some operation or something that is not normally going on at BP.
She answered, “Um, you’re right. We had an incident starting about 1:30pm this afternoon and we had to shut down some major production units.” She said in order to do that they have to “deinventory” or ” depressurize” the pressure vessel (I think she said vessel), and to do that, they go through the flare.
She told me she suspects the sound I was hearing sounds kind of a rumbling sound. I responded that it did sound like a rumbling sound. She said the sound is the flare “doing exactly what it’s supposed to do” which is to “get that gas up, combusted and get it high velocity, high temperature” and get it up and away from not (couldn’t hear what she said) on the ground.
She said they were doing that in as controlled a manner as possible so it is taking a while which she said is a good thing, and that they were able to do a “controlled shutdown.”
I asked when she said they had “an incident” that I had heard the alarm that sounds like the tester alarm I usually only hear on Mondays at noon each week, but today [yesterday] I heard it.
She told me they sounded the evacuation alarm around 1:50pm.
I asked what was the “incident?”
First there was a long pause, then she said, “Um, I’m not sure if they’ve figured everything out yet, um, all I know is that they had to shut down the hydrogen plant and that caused kind of a cascade problem, we had to cut-rate (?couldn’t hear exactly the word) get everything in control.”
I told her when she says the word “incident” that she likely would know what it was, but maybe she just doesn’t want to tell me, but I live close enough that I don’t want to be blown-up and not have known about what was going on so I’d really appreciate if she/BP would be very frank about what it is. I stated that I think it’s important to tell the public what is going on in terms of public safety.
She said “Well I’ve told you exactly what it was.”
I said it seemed like at first, she sounded like she was unsure and then she kind of answered the question. I asked her: “Do you think that’s what it was”?
She said “I know what happened, I don’t know why exactly it happened.”
She explained once it gets dark outside the flare will get blue-ish because it’s mostly hydrogen and methane “so it’s not, there’s almost no sulfur in it, or there’s nothing toxic, not nothing, but there’s almost no dangerous pollutants, it’s mostly methane [I think the word I heard her say was ‘methane’].”
I told her that I wondered what is coming out of there.
She said it was the hydrogen unit that had to be shut down so it’s primarily hydrogen which burns really hot and has kind of a blue-ish flame.
I said to her that I’ve never heard that sound before and I’ve lived here since 2009. She said she has not heard that in a “long, long, long, long time.”
During our conversation she never once said the word “fire.”
So, according to the article linked to at the top of this post, the “incident” was a fire.