Oil accidents and problems - for the archives

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

GICC has received the following postings on Oil accidents and problems for the archives


Subject: oil accidents and outages and y2k

Thought I should help out the folks working on this: see http://pub3.ezboard.com/fdownstreamventurespetroleummarkets.showAddReplyScre enFromWeb?topicID=317.topic Oil accidents and y2k reply ... (dated) January 1 26 2000

In my years of work on issues involving toxic chemical releases, I have never been able to put much stock in accident reporting databases. Notorious problems of under-reporting and lack of quality control have vitiated most -- e.g., in hazardous materials transportation area, as some press accounts have demonstrated. But certainly there are many folks now interested in the current potential connections between y2k and oil industry problems -- an area many of us working full-time on y2k found one of the most alarming of looming risks.

In the interest of credibility, some sources to check/enlist:

1. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board -- I think Dr. Jerry Poje there is looking into potential y2k links with accidents/outages. They probably have the technical capability and the credibility to do trend analysis. The Board is statutorily mandated (Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990) to set up a national chemical accident reporting system by regulation, so they have a keen interest in finding/ensuring good data collection...

2. Marsh and McLennan in Chicago is a risk insurer for major oil companies, etc. and compiles every two years a study called something like "100 Largest Losses" in the petrochemical industry -- not a broad database, but impressive data on huge economic losses due to individual accidents... May be good for illustrative purposes.

3. Earlier reports of very few refinery accidents in past years seemed very incomplete -- my impression is that most refineries have lots of small fires/explosions and a major one on average once a year. Don't know how good the historical data is...

4. The main U.S. EPA database for reporting of chemical spills, the Emergency Response and Notification System, was quietly unplugged at the end of 1999, because it was not y2k-compliant. The ERNS webpage carried no information on this, nor apparently was any public announcement made.

EPA staffers told the Center for Y2k and Society that they are working on a new system, tentatively known as "ERNS 2000", that they hope will be ready at end of January. Until a new system is up, EPA regional offices and emergency responders will have to rely on the reporting system maintained at the National Response Center. First response to chemical spills thus may not be significantly affected by the loss of ERNS, but the 10 EPA Regions will no longer have any ability to modify the data in the accident reports as new information becomes available (e.g., if a spill initially reported as 10 gallons of gasoline turns out to have been 10,000 gallons).

Similarly down from y2k-related problems is the comprehensive and detailed incident "Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance" (HSEES) database maintained by the CDC/ATSDR in Atlanta (part of NIH) from 12 state health departments (also non-y2k specific, although at our urging they suggested that state reporters add y2k-specific info if Available.)

The U.S. National Response Center database (for initial incident reports only, not modifiable) is apparently still operating. So immediate emergency response is probably not impacted by the loss of the other two...

5. Dr. Sam Mannan at the Mary Kay O'Connor Center at Texas A&M University, who did the December study of small chemical plants and y2k. His staff is calling out to some oil industry y2k insiders...

6. As one benchmark of studies of accident trends, see U.S. PIRG's "Accidents Will Happen" (1999 version-- uses ERNS data) -- call Paul Orum at 202-544-9568 for some valuable perspective on this and other studies...

Best, (name withheld since permission to quote was not obtained)

End of forwarded e-mail

-- GICC Sysop (y2kgicc@yahoo.com), July 18, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ