Another facility for sulphur storage and processing (owned and operated by Shell at Shantz, Alberta for a number of years) follows different design details. Although there is a large open
sulphur block at that site (west of Didsbury), the 40 rotoforming machines used to produce the sulphur pastilles or prills are enclosed, so that if fires should happen, those can easily be contained and extinguished. A common method for doing that is to smother a fire with a nitrogen-gas blanket. The prills produced in the rotoforming process at Shantz are being stored in a silo. That, too, makes fire-containment and -extinguishing a breeze.
In contrast, the proposed HAZCO facility in Lamont County doesn't have those facilities for the containment of a fire. HAZCO intends to stockpile the prills it would produce out in the open in a pile that HAZCO states would be no more than fifty feet high, but HAZCO has said nothing about how long or how wide that pile may become or what volume of sulphur it will contain. (Update 2005 11 20: According to HAZCO's application to Alberta Environment, dated Oct. 19, 2005, p. 32, the storage pile of sulphur prills would contain up to 45,000 tonnes of sulphur) No information has been made available on how hot a fire in such a stockpile would burn, how fast it would spread, and how easy it would be to put out. It stands to reason that a sulphur fire in such a pile will burn considerably fiercer and spread far faster than one in a sulphur dust pile. Mind you, according to the HAZCO information office official, sulphur fire are absolutely harmless and easily extinguished; all one would require is to put water on them. One has to wonder why it took firefighters weeks and even a whole month to put out the sulphur fires in Iraq (2003), South Africa (1997) and Alberta (Shell, Ram River, 1975 and 1986). Maybe they didn't know as much about sulphur fires as HAZCO does. On the other hand, it is far more likely that HAZCO doesn't know enough and that it is not telling the truth.
We do know that a fire in such an open pile of prills can not be easily put out by smothering it with nitrogen gas. It would require potentially vast amounts of water, while it produces copious amounts of deadly sulphur dioxide gas that turns into sulphuric acid upon contact with water.
The sulphur processing plant at Shantz was to be built originally close to a town in that area. Upon the objections by local residents, a location tens of miles (42km from the originally proposed site location) away from densely populated areas was chosen and a hot-glycol-jacketed pipeline was built to transport liquid sulphur from its point of origin to the Shantz facility. The Shantz facility is located in a very sparsely populated area. None of the Shantz sulphur facility employees live within smelling distance of the Shantz facility. Thousands of Lamont County residents would live within smelling distance of the Lamont County HAZCO sulphur facility.
Interestingly, while the Shantz sulphur processing facility appears to be owned and operated by Shell, it appears that Shell will contract HAZCO to handle the sulphur produced by Shell in the Fort Saskatchewan area, with Shell quite possibly retaining ownership of the sulphur. HAZCO has been less than forthcoming with answers as to who will own the sulphur it intends to store and process. (Update 2005 11 20: At the Nov. 17th, 2005 public discussion forum in the Lamont Recreation Centre, Don Friesen, HAZCO's CEO, finally provided an answer to the frequently asked question as to who will own the sulphur to be stored and handled by HAZCO. He said that ownership of the sulphur will remain with those corporations that produce the sulphur and ship it to the HAZCO site.)