Tank battery operators identified and given notice
Office of Conservation finishes initial work of compiling list of sites likely impacted by safety rule
For Immediate Release
Contact: Patrick Courreges, 225-342-0510
BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation Richard Ieyoub announced today that his office has sent notice to operators around the state operating tank batteries near roads or populated places to prove they have been properly marked and fenced or face potential enforcement actions.
Ieyoub’s Office of Conservation (OOC) adopted a new regulation in November 2021 to improve safety on and around oilfield tank battery sites, and OOC staff have spent most of the past year working to merge aerial maps with OOC records on well sites to create a listing of operators likely to have tank batteries that are within 500 feet of a home or highway, 1,000 feet of a church or school, or anywhere within the corporate limits of a city, town or village. The rule formally took effect in February 2022.
Tank batteries are the field storage sites for oil wells that are not otherwise connected by pipeline to a market for sale. The tanks are large metal containers that may hold hundreds or thousands of gallons of crude oil, which in turn, can give off flammable fumes. Tank battery sites should never be entered by anyone who is not associated with the operations of the site, as they have the potential to create fires or explosions if a spark or open flame are introduced near a tank opening.
“For more than a century, these tank battery facilities were not being tracked individually, but treated as an extension of the well site and only noted in inspection reports if there was a specific problem such as a spill,” Ieyoub said. “We have seen that the general public is less aware of oilfield operations and hazards than it was a generation ago, and so we acted to help increase awareness and safety around these sites.”
Ieyoub in 2021 directed the creation a rule with new requirements for fencing, warning signs and securing of potential entry hatches to the tanks themselves immediately after a fatal accident early that year, in which a teenage girl, Zalee Day-Smith, was killed while on a tank battery site in Beauregard Parish.
“Our staff had to develop a system for identifying these tank batteries and their locations from scratch,” Ieyoub said. “Conservation had never kept records on these facilities directly, so we had to try and identify them through our records in more indirect ways and compare those records to aerial maps. It was a great deal of painstaking work done by our people in addition to their regular inspection and enforcement duties.”
OOC staff have identified more than 1,400 sites that potentially meet the criteria for the provisions of the rule, which include:
- Directly blocking access to tank battery sites by requiring operators to construct fences a minimum of 4 feet high around the sites with the gate locked whenever the site is unmanned.
- Requiring that all tank hatches, excluding those that might be part of a pressure relief system, be securely sealed when the site is unmanned.
- Requiring warning signs noting the potential for flammable contents in the tanks.
In its outreach to operators believed likely to have tank batteries meeting the locations criteria, OOC has given them 90 days to demonstrate one of three things –
- Their site is in compliance with the new safety rules
- Their site is outside the location criteria listed in the rules
- They are not the current operator of the site identified
If identified operators cannot demonstrate one of those three conditions, they can be subject to enforcement actions by OOC.
Conservation staff will continue the process of refining the list as new information becomes available and continue the longer-term process of creating unique identifiers and a census of all tank battery sites, which has never been done in the history of the state.
“It is never easy to take on a project like this, when you are doing something that probably should have been done decades ago, but when we see a safety issue, we have to do what we can to address it,” Ieyoub said. “Hopefully, the work we are putting in now will make it easier for those who follow us to help keep the public informed and safer.”
###News Archives »