Pollution prevention & control, Uncategorized, Waste storage

“Dear Aunty, is the BBC clip of a bauer coupling at the IGas drilling site indicative of poor controls?”

No, sweeties, it’s not.

Although, based on the excitement it’s caused amongst anti-fracking activists, you could be forgiven for thinking that the image of a bauer coupling – with what appears to be gaffer tape helping to keep it together – is a sign that onshore drilling activities are poorly managed.

Anyone who actually bothered to look at the image closely will see that a blue valve is also visible, and it’s in the closed position. So, regardless of how secure the coupling may or may not have been at that exact moment in time, dears, there was no risk of any material escaping from the tank because the valve was isolated.

But what if it had failed? What if that coupling came loose when the valve was in the open position, wouldn’t that increase the risk of a spill?

Well, yes, of course it would. But an increased risk of something happening doesn’t make it a fait accompli, poppets.

And even if there was a loss of fluid, the sites are deliberately constructed so as to provide suitable levels of secondary spill containment – meaning that spilled liquids are retained within the curtilage of the site and do not escape to the surrounding environment.

The Source>Pathway>Receptor principle of environmental risk assessment applies – in this case, even though there’s a source of something that can be spilled, and nearby receptors that could be affected, the spill containment measures employed mean that there’s no pathway. And therefore no problem.

But all that is moot, cherubs. And that’s because bauer couplings are typically only used in low-risk applications, because the spring-loaded clasps have a tendency to wear loose over time.

If the fluid being stored and used is hazardous or potentially contaminative, it’s more likely you’d see BSP screw fittings used instead (petrol tankers that make deliveries to your local forecourt use a form of screw fitting because you can obtain a tighter, more robust connection). Strong mineral acids usually sees bolted flange fittings being used, and for oil and gas flows, hammer unions.

So, dears, the continued use of a bauer coupling that’s lost some of its tension isn’t a sign that activities are poorly controlled or unregulated, it’s a sign that it’s so low risk that it doesn’t matter.

And all the Twitter chatter amongst opponents of onshore oil and gas extraction – well, my loves, that’s just a sign that they have no real knowledge.

Until next time xxx

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