Sasol expansion will require levees, possibly berms

By By Frank DiCesare / American Press

Sasol’s proposed plant expansion projects will necessitate building more structures and liquid gas tanks, which means additional levees will be needed. Perhaps berms, too.

The petrochemical company is looking to

build both a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker and GTL complex and a

new alcohols

unit. These projects will require the company to construct levees

for fire safety. The company is also considering building

berms and for plant concealment and noise suppression.

“Some of our tanks contain kerosene,”

said Michael Hayes, Sasol’s public affairs director for U.S.

megaprojects. “The problem

with petroleum hydrocarbons like kerosene is that if you have a

tank failure and lightening strikes and that kerosene catches

on fire, it becomes more volatile and flammable, which causes the

fire to get bigger and bigger. That’s why you want to separate

the tanks from one another with a levee. If you have a leak a levee

can isolate it so you won’t have all of the tanks engaged

at once.”

Sasol’s levees or “tank dikes” are large grass-covered mounds that stand between four to seven feet high; they encircle either

one or a group of tanks at the Westlake plant.

Sasol currently operates raw material, intermediate and product tanks, which vary in size and contents. The company’s tanks

that face Old Spanish Trail stand between 40 and 48 feet tall and hold 950,000 to 2.7 million gallons of kerosene, volume

equivalent to one to one-and-a-half barge loads.

Hayes said environmental laws known as spill protection control countermeasures require companies that store flammable liquids

to contain the contents of the largest tank with a tank dike.

“You have to contain the largest tank plus sufficient space for rainfall,” he said. “You may have more than one tank in the

tank dike. You just have to contain the largest one.”

Hayes added that he is not sure how many tanks will be built to accommodate the company’s expansion. However, each operating

unit Sasol builds, he said, will either send product directly into pipelines or store it in tanks.

“Each of our operating units may have a raw material feed,” he said. “You sometimes have smaller intermediate tanks where

you have something like a mixtures of alcohols coming off an installation column that goes into storage.”

Sasol’s expansion may also necessitate

the construction of berms for noise suppression and to hide the new

units from public

view. Back in the late 1990s, the company constructed a large berm

that runs along its Gate 22 entrance on Houston River Road.

Today, the berm, which consists of grass, bushes and trees stands nearly 30 feet high in some places, hiding most of Sasol’s

plant from neighbors across the street and passing vehicles.

Hayes said Sasol’s Houston River Road berm was built when the company was expanding its ethoxylation unit.

“We had some excess dirt and someone had an idea to improve the aesthetics of the plant,” he said. “So we used that dirt to

construct that berm. It was a functional use for some excess material.”

Hayes said he expects some sort of visual barrier will be built around Sasol’s ethane cracker and GTL complex.

“I expect that we will have something along the way of noise suppression and something to improve the attractiveness of the

facility.”