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CICCC Update—6 May 2004 Meeting
New phenol storage proposal

Huntsman Chemical Company is planning to cease production of phenol at their Brooklyn plant, from which they presently supply the local market (including their own requirements) of about 12,000 tonnes per year. They will change from being a small exporter of excess production to being a significant importer. Huntsman has given Terminals a letter of understanding, and details of requirements and approval processes are now being worked through.

Terminals are already licensed to import and export phenol, and have two heated phenol tanks in the Plant C East, only one of which is in use.

About phenol

Phenol is used in plastics (lawn bowls), waterproof Medium Density Fibre, glues and herbicides.

Phenol is a toxic substance, and will cause severe burns on contact with skin. It melts at 41 degrees Centigrade. The Material Safety Data Sheet states (in part):

  • “Phenol is rapidly absorbed through the skin from liquid solid and vapour with possible fatal results.
  • “Because of its low volatility phenol is not expected to present a vapour inhalation risk at ambient temperatures in open areas.”

Phenol, or carbolic acid as it also known, has a distinct odour, associated formerly with its wide use in a 3% diluted solution as a hospital antiseptic. Community Member Faye Simpson told the Committee that “In the past, exposure to phenol has been implicated in WorkCover claims by hospital workers”.

The proposal

Peter La Rose, Operations Manager at Terminals, presented the proposal to the Committee. The proposed new site for the two relocated and upgraded phenol tanks is the south west corner of Plant B West. The tanks will have HDPE under-liners (probably on concrete bases), and sealed bund floors. They will have a completely sealed system, including a new, bigger-volume caustic scrubber. The new road tanker loading bay will have a sealed tank vapour return system. The cost of establishing the facility is anticipated to be $1.7 to $1.8 million.

Wastes from tank cleaning, line pigging and scrubbing will be disposed of to licensed waste premises, and it is possible that Huntsman will take them to dispose of in their biological treatment facility.

EPA requirements

Although a facility such as is being proposed for a new material with new technology would normally need a Works Approval, as Terminals is an accredited licensee, Works Approval is unlikely to be required. Terminals must now submit a notification to EPA, setting out reasons why it doesn’t need Works Approval.

George Horman told the Committee that accreditation requires the Company to demonstrate vigour, independent auditing and continuous improvement. The status of an accredited licensee was hard-won, and will be jealously guarded.

Other approval requirements

Bronwyn Brookman-Smith told the Committee that phenol was already part of Terminals’ Safety Case. The Safety Case would need to be revised for the proposed facility, including the HAZOP process.

The City of Maribyrnong asked Terminals to provide them with a copy of their Planning Permit application. As there is no requirement to advertise the Planning Permit under the special arrangements for the Port, after discussion with the Committee Terminals offered to provide details of the proposal to anyone in the community who wished to enquire.

Interested parties may ring Terminals on 9320 6300 and ask for Peter La Rose.

Next meeting of the CICCC

An extra meeting will be held on 10 June 2004, at which Terminals will continue to outline their plans to store phenol on their west side leases. Bob Stensholt, MP, the Parliamentary Secretary for Treasury and Finance, has accepted the Committee’s invitation to attend, to discuss the Maxwell Report on Health and Safety Legislation.

The next scheduled meeting of the CICCC will be held on Thursday 15 July, 2004 at the Maribyrnong Town Hall on the corner of Hyde and Napier Streets, Footscray at 6.30 pm. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting. Bronwyn Brookman-Smith of WorkSafe will make a presentation on the report by Sweeney Research on the WorkSafe safety regime.

Robin Saunders, Chair CICCC, 12 May 2004