SFD gets rare look at Enbridge operationThe Superior Fire Department’s training puts them in some unique spots, from hitting the emergency brake on a locomotive to lowering a “victim” down from a trolley crane bridge. Wednesday, they found themselves surrounded by steel at the Enbridge terminal, walking through a storage tank.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The Superior Fire Department’s training puts them in some unique spots, from hitting the emergency brake on a locomotive to lowering a “victim” down from a trolley crane bridge. Wednesday, they found themselves surrounded by steel at the Enbridge terminal, walking through a storage tank.
“What an opportunity to see inside of an empty tank,” said Superior Battalion Chief Scott Gordon. “That way if something happens over the course of our careers, it’s not the first time.”
The floating roof that rises and lowers with the amount of product in the tank was “landed,” resting on 80 metal posts. Floodlights, round “manway” openings set at intervals along the rim of the tank and sunshine glowing around the rim of the roof gave firefighters enough light to examine the tanks inner workings.
The Enbridge terminal houses 40 tanks, ranging from 150 to 210 feet in diameter. Many date back to the early 1950s. Tank 23, which the firefighters toured, was built in 1956. The five newest tanks were built in 2009 for the Alberta Clipper Pipeline Project, which transports crude oil between Alberta, Canada and Superior, according to Enbridge spokeswoman Becky Haase.
Tanks must be pulled out of service every 20 years for cleaning and updating, according to Carl Larsen, Enbridge region engineer. The process includes removing up to six feet of “bottoms,” the paraffins, wax, sand and other particulates that drop out of the crude oil, as well as an inspection and upgrades to bring the tank up to current standards. The process can take anywhere from six months to a year.
There may be a time when a worker in a tank has a medical emergency. If that happens, the firefighters now will be familiar with the inside of the structure and procedures for entering one.
“We have a lot of back and forth with the Superior Fire Department,” Haase said. The department applies for annual Safe Community Grants from the business, and they keep the lines of communication open.
Although the company has its own safety personnel, the Superior Fire Department is “our next line of defense,” Haase said. “We rely on you for fire support and medical as well.”
An incident last year brought to light how little firefighters knew about day-to-day operations at the terminal, Gordon said. So they partnered with the company to familiarize every engine company with the layout of the space. Now they’re starting to look at specifics — tanks, functions and more — to identify potential hazards. Next year, they hope to stage a rim fire and possible rescue simulations at the terminal. The same kind of training takes place at other local businesses, including the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad and the Graymont lime plant.
The goal is familiarity and practice, Gordon said.