PHMSA issues LP-gas odorant notice following several incidents

Several recent incidents possibly attributed to the under odorization and/or ordorant fade of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) have been brought to the attention of officials at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The agency is reminding shippers and consignees that they have a responsibility to ensure against odorant fade in LP-gas shipments. PHMSA also called on transporters to promote awareness of the issue.

Most notable of the recent incidents is one that occurred in Norfolk MA on July 30, 2010 when an explosion rocked a residential condo complex that was under construction. The five- fire-alarm rescue mission resulted in emergency responders from 21 cities/towns responding to the incident.

The explosion resulted in seven injuries and one fatality. During the course of the investigation, questions were raised as to whether LPG was detected (smelled) prior to the explosion. As a result, the Norfolk Fire Department ordered the testing of the on-site LPG storage tanks revealing that LPG had not been sufficiently odorized, which then prompted the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal to demand a comprehensive investigation.

Both the Federal Railroad Administration and PHMSA are reminding shippers and consignees of railroad tank cars and tank trucks containing odorized LPG, of the importance of taking actions to ensure that a sufficient level of odorant remains in the LPG throughout the entire transportation cycle. Shippers and consignees of bulk quantities of odorized LPG should review their existing LPG odorization standards and procedures, and take appropriate actions to guard against odorant fade in their shipments.

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