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  1. #1
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    Default Leaking propane tank-WWYD?

    Just wondering "What Would YOU DO" . We just ran a call where some one attempted to drill a 35 y/o steel propane tank to empty it. They used a 1/4 inch bit but did not completely drill through the tank. Any ideas? The tank was still 1/3 full with a very slow leak coming from the hole. Valve would not work properly.

    Thanks


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    Does the phrase DUMB*** mean anything here. Drilling into any type of pressurized vessel, even a plain air pig, is as irresponsible as looking down the barrell of a gun and wondering why it didn't fire. The potential for an explosive release of pressure is unreal. Not to mention you're dealing with propane. As soon as you breach the container, providing you don't cause a spark and explosion, the liquid propane is going to vent and boil causing severe burns to the hands, face, etc... Propane boils at -44 degrees F. Call a professional gas company or better yet 911 immediately. Let someone who has a clue dispose of the container before someone gets killed!!!!

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    Forum Member fireman4949's Avatar
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    (Full gear w/ SCBA and a charged, manned line in place. Have the local gas company en route.)

    The first thing to do is to eliminate possible ignition sources and restrict access to the area. Use non-sparking tools to disconnect the tank from the copper supply line and roll the tank so that the hole is in the vapor space and NOT the liquid space. This reduces the release of product to 1/270th of a liquid leak. Stabilize the tank so that it will not roll.

    If you have a plug and patch kit, a rubber gasket that us held in place with a ratcheting binder strap can often seal the leak very well. A conical wooden wedge, or even a trusty golf tee tapped into the hole can do wonders also.

    Monitor the tank and keep a line in place as a precaution. Stand by and wait for the gas company rep to remove the tank.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ltstreetmedic View Post
    Just wondering "What Would YOU DO" . We just ran a call where some one attempted to drill a 35 y/o steel propane tank to empty it. They used a 1/4 inch bit but did not completely drill through the tank. Any ideas? The tank was still 1/3 full with a very slow leak coming from the hole. Valve would not work properly.

    Thanks
    How big is the tank?

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    I would stand back and watch. Keep everyone clear and hope for the best. Why would we get any of our people close enough to a potential bomb if we don't have to. Now, if it were in the basement of a nursing home, school or hospital, that may be a different story.
    Jason Brooks
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    Forum Member fireman4949's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbrescue View Post
    I would stand back and watch. Keep everyone clear and hope for the best. Why would we get any of our people close enough to a potential bomb if we don't have to. Now, if it were in the basement of a nursing home, school or hospital, that may be a different story.

    Your kidding, right?!

    If not, then you damn sure need to find another line of work!
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    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireman4949 View Post
    (Full gear w/ SCBA and a charged, manned line in place. Have the local gas company en route.)

    The first thing to do is to eliminate possible ignition sources and restrict access to the area. Use non-sparking tools to disconnect the tank from the copper supply line and roll the tank so that the hole is in the vapor space and NOT the liquid space. This reduces the release of product to 1/270th of a liquid leak. Stabilize the tank so that it will not roll.

    If you have a plug and patch kit, a rubber gasket that us held in place with a ratcheting binder strap can often seal the leak very well. A conical wooden wedge, or even a trusty golf tee tapped into the hole can do wonders also.

    Monitor the tank and keep a line in place as a precaution. Stand by and wait for the gas company rep to remove the tank.

    Easy breezy for a Hazmat op. Maybe a little more intimidating for a non-hazmat volunteer. Especially if this is a 500 pound home tank, etc.

    Even without the roll, which is the most likely part of the procedure to cause you a spark or other complication, some putty in the hole, with a gasket and the ratchet strap would probably do well enough to slow the leak to nil.

    I personally would try to plug and ratchet it first, then roll it over if still necessary, but it is all an issue of experience and comfort level of the operator. Don't forget an anti-static strap or wet towel if the leak is significant enough to create a decent gas cloud.

    Once you have it contained, either turn it over to the gas co., or if they won't touch it for ownership reasons, find a way to vent the vapour safely in a controlled environment.

    Then beat some sense into the dumb owner...
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    Forum Member fireman4949's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcaldwell View Post
    Easy breezy for a Hazmat op. Maybe a little more intimidating for a non-hazmat volunteer. Especially if this is a 500 pound home tank, etc.

    Even without the roll, which is the most likely part of the procedure to cause you a spark or other complication, some putty in the hole, with a gasket and the ratchet strap would probably do well enough to slow the leak to nil.

    I personally would try to plug and ratchet it first, then roll it over if still necessary, but it is all an issue of experience and comfort level of the operator. Don't forget an anti-static strap or wet towel if the leak is significant enough to create a decent gas cloud.

    Once you have it contained, either turn it over to the gas co., or if they won't touch it for ownership reasons, find a way to vent the vapour safely in a controlled environment.

    Then beat some sense into the dumb owner...
    There are several problems with trying to patch/plug a liquid LPG leak.
    One is the temperature of the liquid as it vaporizes. Frostbite is a given if you come in contact with it, even if wearing a thick firefighting glove, a few seconds of contact with even a small liquid leak has the potential to cause immediate injury.
    Another is the rate at which product is being released. The time spent trying to directly mitigate a liquid leak, only to find that the tank must inevitably be rolled anyway, has caused a much greater amount (270 times as much) of product to escape than rolling the tank as quickly as safely possible to begin with.
    Yet another problem is a liquid leak will freeze most any type of rubber gasket material or putty before it can conform to the tank's side, causing a poor seal at best and leaving a liquid leak that must still be dealt with.

    Although the possibility of a spark while rolling the tank is always a possibility (although unlikely in most situations if a few precautions are taken initially), the danger of a remote ignition source down range in the rapidly expanding vapor cloud is of much greater concern.

    If I had to plug a significant liquid leak and rolling wasn't a viable option, or rolling would take a significant amount of time, I would most likely opt to use a wooden plug.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireman4949 View Post
    Your kidding, right?!

    If not, then you damn sure need to find another line of work!
    Not at all. As a hazmat tech and team member for over the past ten years, I stand by my answer. First, don't forget risk a lot to save a lot. There still has not been any information posted about the size or location of the tank. Second, unless letting this vent to atmosphere is going to cause a problem, put a fog stream on it and let it do its thing. Third, I have access to the appropriate gear, we carry cryo gloves for exactly this purpose and I am comfortable doing my job. But, what are we going to be accomplishing here. If we reduce the vapor cloud with the water, then there will be little or no hazard in the atmosphere. Like I said, if there is a major life safety issue, I will go in and plug it as needed. How is this any different than going on a pressured cylinder truck that is leaking on the highway. Shut the road down and let it vent. I don't know about you, but my flash suits are not going to protect me from a BLEVE or other catastrophic event.
    Jason Brooks
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    Water, and lots of it. If the tank has been breeched, and the breech leaking just keep it wet and dissipate the gas. And as was said, remove any possible ignition sources. I wouldn't treat it any differently than if the valve released. With a hole in it there is really nothing that can be done there is no "little Dutch boy" fix.

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    How big is the tank?

    Is the hole above or below the liquid line?

    If it's small enough to move by hand, and the hole is above the liquid level, I'd say move it away from ignition sources.

    If it's too big to move, then I defer any further action to a more trained HazMat guru.
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    Default More info

    Remember, You are the HazMat professionals. The tank is 40-50 y/o steel tank that was probably going to be scrapped for some cash. The individual who was going to scrap it was unable to open the valve and vent the remaining gas. Although he didn't come right out and say that was his plan. He denied any knowledge of the 20 lb tank. Just saying that when he left for work around 8 am, he did notice some type of venting sound coming from the lot next door. The time is now 5 pm and there is a condensation on the bottom third of the tank. The very small hole, probably 1/16th inch is still leaking. All ignition sources are clear, evacuation of scrappers trailer has been done, you have a line in place proper PPE etc. Also keep in mind that no propane professional will take the very old tank. So if you plug it then how do you dispose of it. Do you wait it out, knowing that it took over 8 hours to vent to the degree that it has vented.
    Any Hazmat Techs out there that want to chime in. We all know the book answers, but what would you do??
    p.s.
    Thanks for the good responses.

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    I'd go with the water fog to disperse the vapor cloud. With that small of a leak you wouldn't need big water. Just keep the stream breaking up the cloud and sit by.
    We could try to call out someone from the private sector, but I doubt anyone would do anything for a 20lb tank.
    I wouldn't attempt to plug a 20lb tank, unless their is a high hazard if we let it leak out.
    Things might change slightly if we were in a rural area and had to pull a tanker box to supply water.
    We don't have the correct device but it might be feasable to hook it up to a burner and burn off the gas to exhaust the tank faster. That decision would have to be based on being able to monitor and control the vapors while this "wahtever" is assembled and lit.
    I do agree that a non intervention is safest but I wouldn't want to be stuck out there all night.

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    My first question is what was Skillet thinking?

    That is followed up with is this a portable cylinder used for a gas grill or RV or is this a 250 - 500 gallon residential tank?
    To err is human, To forgive divine and at times I am as much of both as you will ever find

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    20lb tank maybe 1/3 of a level is what I'm getting?

    It's not alot but don't let that fool you.

    Let's see the facts...

    1 gallon of liquid stored under pressure in a container will expand to approximately 270 gallons of vapor if released to the atmosphere so the expansion ratio is 270:1

    One gallon of propane weighs 4.2 pounds so a full 20lb cylinder has 4 3/4 gallons so based on the 1/3 frost line you may have 1 1/2 gallons left which will expand to 405 gallons of vapor (disclaimer... all are approximate) which very well could make an earth shattering boom (as described by Marvin the Martian).

    My plan would be to rotate the cylinder so the vapor space is where the hole is and then trap the entire vessel in a pattern to disperse vapors and wait it out. This is if a propane supplier wouldn't take it.

    If they would, I would roll the vessel so the hole is in the vapor space, warm with water (yes... warm since propane is a cryo) and then rubber and ratchet strap it. If you can keep only vapor and no liquid, the rubber won't crater from the cold. Keep in mind, the temp only drops when it's shifting from a liquid to gas state.

    I would not put a wood plug in mainly because of the age of the tank and it being steel. I have no way of knowing the wall integrity and pushing a plug may make the problem worse.

    Just my dos pesos on this and as with most things, there are many ways to skin a cat. All actions are of course utilizing proper PPE and all that.

    I personally think that rushing this would make it worse or even fatal.

    Be safe, R2

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    I'm with robert on this one. we had a 20 gal tank on a motorhome vent, call came in as "odor of propane in the motorhome". We could not get a supplier to come out. It took a long time but we let it vent vapor, water fog in place, PPE, evac area, etc.

    I prefer the term "job security", but yea they are dumb, dumb, dumb.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jbrescue View Post
    I would stand back and watch. Keep everyone clear and hope for the best. Why would we get any of our people close enough to a potential bomb if we don't have to. Now, if it were in the basement of a nursing home, school or hospital, that may be a different story.
    Me too. Eliminate ignition sources, establish your exclusion zone, and wait it out. No way in hell am I going to risk the lives of my people for a leaking tank.

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    ANY steel product tank has a minimum 4 to 1 safety factor so I doubt a plug application would cause you any real grief. We see similar issues quite often in 20#'s on grills,larger tanks are a bit more problematic.The local gas company has 4 technicians on our FD so we've got acess to some handy tools for dealing with these emergencies.Along with an in house HM unit. T.C.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    ANY steel product tank has a minimum 4 to 1 safety factor so I doubt a plug application would cause you any real grief. We see similar issues quite often in 20#'s on grills,larger tanks are a bit more problematic.The local gas company has 4 technicians on our FD so we've got acess to some handy tools for dealing with these emergencies.Along with an in house HM unit. T.C.
    I do agree Rescue, but taking into account the age and how much of that shell may have been effected by corrosion and to what extent, I personally wouldn't trust the 4:1 on plugging. If it still had paint on it, I would more readily consider a plug but would most likely strap it anyway. My thought would be to not to mess with the shell integrity anymore than it has already been.

    Same cat... different skinning techique

    Be safe, R2

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    Default Propane Leak

    I am an inexperienced hazmat tech. We had a 12,000 gallon tank of propane roll on the freeway and the container was breached. It was leaking liquid and vapour. We evacuated the area and monitored to know where our vapours were headed. What else could we have done? Any thoughts?

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