Four Biofuel Incidents Top Recent News

Ethanol Plant Fire

The Associated Press (AP) reports that one worker suffered minor burns on Jan. 2 in a flash fire at the Prairie ethanol plant near Loomis, SD. Workers on the scene controlled the fire with an extinguisher. Firefighters from then scanned the area with a thermal imager to make sure that the flames were out.

Capt. Paul Morris of the Mitchell (SD) Fire Department says fighting an ethanol fire is challenging because the flames are nearly invisible when pure ethanol is burning. Officials from Prairie Ethanol plan to bring in a team of experts to determine the cause of the fire.

(Source: Associated Press)

Biodiesel Plant Explosion

Authorities in Defiance, located in northwestern Ohio, say an explosion at a biodiesel plant on Jan. 3 injured four people, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. The explosion happened about 3 p.m. at American AG Fuels. The plant began processing soybean oil to make biodiesel within the last three years.

About 20 employees were inside at the time of the blast, which happened at a loading area of the plant. One of the injured was flown via helicopter to a Toledo (OH) burn center. AP reported that the injured people had been in an office at the plant. A Defiance police officer was also hospitalized for smoke inhalation suffered as he tried to evacuate nearby residents. Their identities and medical conditions were not immediately released.

Investigators have determined the blast took place after employees inadvertently left the cover open on a 10,000 gallon glycerin tank. Glycerin is used as a solvent, sweetener, antifreeze, and in making explosives and soaps. When the tank was heated to keep the glycerin from gelling, flammable vapors escaped into the building where the tank was located. An employee smelled the vapors and opened a garage door to air out the building. It’s believed the electric motor on the garage door ignited the fumes.

Authorities evacuated a two-block area next to the plant for about two hours until residents were allowed to return.

(Source: Associated Press)

Ethanol Train Derailment

A major rail line was forced out of service on Dec. 28 after nine cars on a 42-car train derailed in Indiana County in western Pennsylvania. The resulting ethanol spill caused a fire, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report. No injuries were reported.

The cars left the track at about 1:45 p.m. in West Wheatfield. Rudy Husband, spokesman for Norfolk Southern, which owns the rail line, told the Tribune-Review that eight of the derailed cars contained ethanol, a flammable substance, and another was loaded with liquid propane.

Dan Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County (PA) Public Safety Department, said a car carrying ethanol ruptured and caused a fire. "Everything seems contained to one car," he said. "Nothing seems to be leaking."

The train left Conway, Pa., on the morning of Dec. 28, and was headed to Newark, NJ. The cause of the derailment remains under investigation.

(Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Train Car Leak

Hazardous-materials crews were called to clean up an ethanol leak Jan. 6 from a railroad tank car at Norfolk Southern in Raleigh, NC, according to a report by The News & Observer.

Robin Chapman, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, said a small leak was located at the top of the tank car, but had been stopped by late Sunday afternoon. There was no damage or injuries reported, he said.

The tank car was transporting the ethanol for a company that Chapman would not name. The amount of leaked ethanol hasn’t been determined, Chapman said.

An employee at Norfolk Southern noticed the tank car appeared shiny when it stopped at the rail yard, Chapman said. The employee called the Raleigh Fire Department, which responded with hazardous-materials crews.

Chapman said the tank car is headed to Linwood, which is about 40 minutes south of Winston-Salem, NC.

(Source: The News & Observer)

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