1492494661766 - Lessons learnt from sudden flare up at Taranaki gas production plant

Lessons learnt from sudden flare up at Taranaki gas production plant

The company operating the Taranaki gas production station said it would learn from the incident which sent a large fireball into the sky on Sunday night alarming nearby residents.

A huge flare was seen by residents after a lightning strike during a thunder storm caused the plant to be shut down and the gas flows de-pressurised as emergency procedures were put into practice.

One person said they were forced to leave their house. 

A Shell Todd Oil Services (Stos) spokeswoman said there was no damage to the plant after the strike at 7pm on Sunday night.

The gas production facility was shut down until the following morning when the station was re-started, she said.

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Nearby residents were notified by text alert messaging of the flare up, she said.

For the past four years the text alert system goes to neighbours and key community members and had worked effectively as a communications tool, she said.

“(On Sunday) the text took a little longer than normal to send as our staff were focussed on making sure the site was safe.

“We have systems in place which enable immediate communication with our close neighbours and other community groups.

“These systems were used on Sunday evening.’

Stos would always look to improving the way we can alert residents more effectively, she said.

“We learn from every incident.”

All safety systems, including the depressurisation system, are tested annually, and incidents were rare, she said.

“It is very rare to have an event which would result an unplanned emergency depressurisation of the plant.

“However, we are pleased the system worked as it is intended to.”

The system closed off any sources of natural gas to the plant and made the site safe by lowering the pressure at the production station through venting and then flaring, or burning the gas at a safe location at the flare, she said.

Opunake Community Board chairman Craig Dingle said he was not sure if regular community meetings between STOS and residents would help to improve information channels.

“The flare goes all the time and I don’t know how you could inform the community any better,” he said.

“This was a one-off and nothing to be concerned over.”