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Flooding at Heritage's Point Fortin compound on Sunday.

Gail Alexander

Two agencies are now probing last Sunday’s eruption of a Heritage Petroleum tank since the failure of the bond wall to catch the water which flooded out, has been deemed a major flaw and serious safety breach.

Energy Minister Franklin Khan made this clear in the Senate yesterday while replying to Opposition queries on the failure of Tank 27 last Sunday at the Heritage Petroleum, Point Fortin compound. This resulted in the flooding of surrounding areas with saltwater – and a film of oil- which the tank contained.

Khan recounted Tank 27 erupted as it was being hydro-tested with 500,000 barrels of saltwater. Khan said the water was supposed to have been caught by the bond. But the bond wall failed, causing the water to flood out. He said it was a serious and concerning breach of health and safety management of the tank’s integrity. Consequently, the probe has been launched by Heritage and the Energy Ministry. Reports from both will be sent to the Environmental Management Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA.)

Khan said the former Petrotrin had a major challenge regarding very old tanks’ asset integrity He said Tank 27 was being refurbished and all testing according to American Petroleum Institution (API) standards were done as well as welding.

“Everything seemed to have been in compliance with API standards but hydro -testing is very important. Water is heavier than oil so if it can stand up to saltwater, it could stand up to oil. Hydro-testing was, therefore, a preventative measure. In a sense, it was better if it was breached when it contained saltwater than if it had contained oil and breached,” he said.

Khan added, “The major flaw here was the bond wall failing, causing flooding. This will be probed and further due diligence will be done on the company’s Point Fortin tank farm.”

Khan said if any liabilities arise from the tank’s eruption, the company would deal with this.