An oil-field company denied a city permit for chemical storage is trying again.
Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations has the OK from Minot Public Schools this time. Concerns by school officials contributed to the Minot City Council's 8-5 vote to deny the permit last May. The new Erik Ramstad Middle School is being built about a third of a mile south of the Baker Hughes facility at 4525-8th St. NW.
Supt. Mark Vollmer with Minot Public Schools said the district commissioned an investigation of the Baker Hughes operation and is satisfied with the state-of-the art protections that the company has in place.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations is trying again to get a city permit for chemical storage, this time with approval from Minot Public Schools.
"We can't limit every risk that our schools face," Vollmer said, citing the presence of other industries that exist in school neighborhoods. "But we feel very comfortable with the precautions that were taken by Baker Hughes."
The Minot Fire Department also reports it has no objections to the chemical storage based on company safeguards that exceed its requirements.
Baker Hughes held informational meetings Tuesday and Wednesday at the Grand International that drew no residents, which company officials hope is a sign that people have no concerns.
Baker Hughes focuses on technology
Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations in Minot is primarily a technology company that produces and installs computerized equipment in pumping units for the oil field. Storage of chemicals used in the oil field is a secondary activity, accounting for about 25 percent of the facility space.
About 100 employees currently work at the facility on Minot's north edge. The company projects to grow to more than 200 employees, paying average wages of $60,000 to $80,000 plus benefits.
The company's request for a permit will go to the Minot Planning Commission Sept. 24. The commission had voted 11-1 to approve the permit previously. The commission will recommend again to the city council, which could take action Oct. 1.
Baker Hughes already is handling some chemicals in accordance with existing regulations on hazardous materials that permit a limited amount of storage.
Baker Hughes can store up to 71,445 gallons of chemicals without a city permit. However, there are certain chemicals that Baker Hughes wants to store in excess of their individual limits. To store needed quantities of certain chemicals and ensure operational efficiency, Baker Hughes would like to be allowed a maximum of 80,500 gallons. Company officials say the business isn't likely to keep that much product hand. The average quantity of permitted product to be stored in the company's two warehouses is 51,000 gallons.
Company officials compare the nature of its most flammable chemicals to gasoline and note that a normal corner gas station would have 35,000 to 45,000 gallons of the fuel on site. The chemicals arrive at Baker Hughes sealed in drums that aren't opened on site but are stored until picked up for delivery to the oil field.
The chemicals include corrosion inhibitors, demulsifiers, dispersants and other products used in drilling. Methanol, used as an antifreeze, is one of the main chemicals handled by Baker Hughes. Other products include xylene, light aromatic naptha, trimethylbenzene, isopropanol, ethylene glycol, napthalene, butanol, ammonium bisulfite and a dirt product called calcined diatomaceous earth.
The chemicals do not decompose during a fire so there would be no chemical cloud or toxic fumes, said Ron Rowbottom, Baker's Hughes' director of environmental safety and health.
As attested by the fire department, Baker Hughes has put numerous safety features in place beyond legal requirements.
"We went over and above," said Ralph Crabtree, vice president of real estate and facilities with Baker Hughes. "The equipment we have far surpasses what we have to do."
Safety measures include:
Storage divided between two buildings at separate ends of the property.
Foam sprinkler system for fire suppression with high-speed, automatic response.
A containment system sized to hold all the chemical stored plus water from fire suppression.
A floor design that segments the building into separate drainage sections.
An emergency response plan that includes notifying Minot Public Schools should an incident occur.
Complete information on chemicals stored provided to the Minot Fire Department.
Only authorized employees allowed access to buildings under security measures that met Homeland Security requirements.
Crabtree also cited the national safety record of Houston-based Baker Hughes, which he and Rowbottom tout as among the best in the industry.
"The reality is we have never had an incident of any significance," Crabtree said.
The ability to store more chemicals also will mean fewer deliveries to keep product flowing through the facility to customers, Crabtree said. Rather than 12 to 14 trucks on the road a week, three to four trucks would be arriving each week. Fewer trucks means less risk of an incident occurring on the road, he said. Chemicals are hauled away from the facility daily but in small loads of eight to 15 drums.