Fire at Shell’s Pulau Bukom Site

Date September 20, 2011

The video above was released on Wednesday, 28 September. More explosions occurred at noon on Thursday, 29 September.

Why did the fire flare up again?
According to Shell, the affected area “has lengths of pipelines and connected pumps, and holds a mix of hydrocarbons”. The pipes are no longer in use but still contain fuel, which causes flares when the pipes open up under fire. “This was the reason for the erratic fire, sometimes waning and sometimes growing.” Reports say the fire was contained within the bund wall.

In this Straits Times image, Pulau Hantu is the small wooded island above Pulau Bukom.

Will the fire start up again?
According to reports, there are still traces of fuel vapour, and firefighters are on stand-by to handle that or any other leaks. SCDF said 34 of its vehicles and about 100 firefighters are currently at the scene.

Experts said that a fire like that at Bukom would take a while to die down completely. This is because fluids in the pipes that are burning could continue to reach boiling point and vaporise. The vapours could then heat up and re-ignite again.

Possible cause of the fire?
According to Shell’s preliminary investigation, the fire could have started during maintenance work but the company was unable to provide further details.

Steps taken by Shell?
These include shutting down neighbouring units within the vicinity of the fire, and isolating the lines and cooling the tanks in the area to prevent entry of any fresh hydrocarbons. Before the fire was put out, Shell said it was undetaking “a progressive shutdown of the refinery”. The company has shut several units in the vicinity of the fire, including a hydrocracker. A full shutdown will take two days. Other precautionary measures already taken include the monitoring of the air quality around Pulau Bukom four times a day.

Impact on air quality?
NEA, which has collected air samples, said it has not detected the presence of toxic gases. But it said smoke from the Pulau Bukom fire may have some effect on the air quality in western parts of Singapore – such as Jurong, Teban Gardens, West Coast and Pasir Panjang.

Impact on water quality?
There has been no public information put out on this.

What goes on at the Shell refinery on Pulau Bukom?
Ria Tan did this post some time ago on what she could find out about Shell operations on Bukom.

What natural wonders are found near Pulau Bukom?
More in this post.

Thanks to Ria Tan for staying on the pulse of this event and keeping us updated.

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