07 October 2009

Explosions at Petrol Stations

If you ever look at the warning plaque which is mounted on the wall, next to many petrol pumps, you would notice that there are warnings about: (a) mobile phones and electronic devices; (b) static electricity; (c) no smoking; (d) turning off the engine; (e) filling portable containers in the ground; and (f) not removing the nozzle if a fire starts. That last warning about a fire starting, should have been a clue as to why we need to heed these warnings. Here is a picture of an example warning plaque:

Warning plaque at petrol pump

There are some people who think that you should not re-enter the vehicle while filling up on petrol. Here is a video of one such incident where a woman re-entered her car while filling up (at 0:45). Observe how the pump caught fire when she touched it (at 1:03).

In another incident, a Shell truck carrying petrol caught fire when one of its staff decided to illuminate a portion with his mobile phone. (Observe at 1:22)

Both these videos are undated and can be found on YouTube, the video-sharing site owned by Google. One video, however, had a date and a story attached to it. In March 2008, a man was filling up a metal can with petrol when it caught fire. The metal can sat on the truck. The continuous flow of petrol into the metal can led to a build up of static electricity. At the same time, that static electricity could not be discharged, because the can was not on the ground. Again, the portable container (used to contain the petrol) was not on the ground. The continuous build up of static electricity led to a spark, which ignited the vapour fumes. (Start watching at 1:00)

That incident took place in Louisiana, USA. (Ref: The Town Talk, 3rd March 2008. Static Electricity Blamed For Fire At Gasoline Pump At Alexandria). The original story is no longer online, but it has been included in a newsletter by the Steel Tank Institute. (Ref: The Steel Tank Institute, Tank and Petrol Pump Mishaps. Accessed 7th October 2009.)

I hope to explore this topic more in-depth in the near future.

In the meantime, OPEC's basket price of crude oil is USD68.14 per barrel, as of 6th October 2009. Crude oil prices are expected to remain at USD60 to USD80 per barrel for the remainder of this year. (Ref: AFP, 7th October 2009. Kuwait sees steady oil output, price.) The same report states that the OPEC decision to cut output last year has led to Russia overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of oil. In August, Russia's production was 10 million barrels per day, while Saudi Arabia's production stood at 8.1 million barrels per day. At the NYMEX, light sweet crude oil for November 2009 delivery is opened at a low of USD69.80 per barrel today and most recently settled at USD69.57.