Numerous types of aggressive deterioration mechanisms that can be found in the sulfur pits, and these need to be identified accurately to be neutralized effectively....
...Generation of sulfuric acid - a chemical extremely detrimental to concrete - can be caused by water leakage into the pit from cracks and failed slab or wall penetrations. Also, exposed reinforcing steel bars above molten sulfur levels may corrode because of the electrochemical process of corrosion. (1)
As far as the proposed Bruderheim sulphur storage facility is concerned, the key concern is the generation of
sulphuric acid by water leakage into the storage pits. The plans for the sulphur storage facility do provide for
a concrete storage pit and did originally identify subsurface pits that were
to be lined with plastic. The plastic was to cover a base layer of crushed limestone through which leakage of water or diluted sulphuric acid is to be drained. Limestone neutralizes sulfuric acid, if given enough time. On the other hand, given enough time and sufficient acid flow, limestone will become eroded
possibly in a very short time through that process of acid neutralization. The base layer of crushed limestone at the proposed sulphur storage was
to be only from 10 mm to 40 mm thick.
Without doubt due to the objections raised by FOLC,
HAZCO changed their proposal to include above-ground storage blocks.
However, due to concerns raised about that method of storage and the
length of the storage interval required (HAZCO considers 65 years to be
"short term"), the plans were modified again. The latest version
allowed for above storage of up to about 50,000 tonnes of finished
product and some buffering for fluctuations in incoming sulphur flow
through storage in above-ground tanks.
Some members of the sulphur storage industry downplay the danger posed through
sulphuric acid generation. Actually, they do more than merely downplay that danger. Some players in the sulphur storage industry simply and categorically state something like the following:
No emissions are expected from the sulphur storage process. Finally, depending on the selected water treatment process, most wastewater does not require treatment before being discharged. (2)
Others, however, have considerably more concerns.
They quantify the causes, dangers and consequences of gas discharges at pit vents and "eductors" and provide suggestions and proven methods for reducing the environmental pollution at such points (an eductor is a discharge facility for sulphur into storage pits or into tanks and other containers). Typically, ejection of liquid sulphur occurs through steam-jacketed pipes, such as at the eductor shown in the photo at the right of one at a sulphur storage location. Where sulphur is ejected it will cause the release of vent gases. The reference report from which the subsequent quote was taken provides recommendations for the prevention, collection and disposal of vent gases. (3)
It appears that the design for the Hazco sulphur storage facility does not address what to do with those vent gases, nor does it prevent their escape into the atmosphere. However, vent gases in sulphur processing and transferring present environmental concerns.
Sulfur Pit Vent and Sulfur Storage Tanks Vent
The vent gases from the sulfur pits, truck loading rack and the sulfur storage tanks have been routed to the thermal or catalytic incinerator and vented to the atmosphere for a long time and have met the target emission. The new emission regulation forces industries and operation companies to reduce their emissions. Therefore, the sulfur pit vents, truck loading rack and the sulfur storage tanks need to be treated [so] that
[they] do not affect  the unit capacity and do not have significant impact throughout the unit and [at] the same time provide a safe, reliable low cost operation. Therefore, there is no solid answer that fits all the sulfur plants. Each sulfur plant needs to be evaluated individually in terms of capacity, equipment and cost and [to] find the best location to satisfy the needs. In some cases the site has more than one sulfur plant and it is desirable to collect all the vents and send it only to one sulfur plant to reduce the costs. There are many options and solutions  available to process the vent gas from the sulfur pit and from the sulfur storage tanks [that] could be evaluated for reducing the sulfur emissions from the sulfur recovery units.... (3)
Anyone living in the Bruderheim area is familiar with the fogs that occur there during atmospheric temperature inversions. He will also know that during the past 30 years
and especially during the past 20 years those fogs and even light drizzles have become very acidic and corrosive. Vent gases containing sulphur, sulphur dioxide or
sulphuric acid will without doubt provide for increased corrosiveness of such atmospheric conditions in the Bruderheim area. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) needs nothing more than to be brought into contact with moisture to be converted into sulphuric acid.
Furthermore, what comes into play is,
Another Culprit: Construction Defects
As with all concrete structures, defects in original construction can also jeopardize sulfur pit operations. The following defects can contribute to the reduced life expectancy of sulfur pits....[see
photo of deteriorating concrete sulphur pit at right.
The proposed plans for the sulphur storage facility near Bruderheim call for
a deep sulphur pit. (See
application, p. 27) Therefore the basic danger mentioned in the preceding reference
does apply. Even non-concrete storage facilities can suffer from construction defects. Not only that, but the presence of a very high water table will be an additional complication at the proposed location.
Moreover, at least in some years, the design and construction of the sulphur storage pits will have to prevent groundwater from seeping into
any pits that would be constructed. There were years in the
not-too-distant past when a good portion of the area for the proposed storage facility became
inundated with water during the spring run-off season.
In the Spring of 1974, for example, the water levels at the proposed plant
site were high enough to cover for days all of the operations area now
identified in HAZCO's application. Is HAZCO playing Russian roulette
with the weather? At any rate, the gun is being held to our heads. HAZCO's management does not live here, we do.
An extensive search for an environmental impact assessment of the proposed location near Bruderheim produced not a single instance of such a study. The documentation for the locations near Thorhild and near Gibbons apparently does not address leaching through rain or melt-water run-off nor the potential problems posed by frequently high, near-surface groundwater levels.
If water leaching and
acid formation should occur (the design appears to anticipate the possibility of that), and the design of the drainage happens to be insufficient to cope with that, repairs and re-construction will be extremely difficult and very expensive to implement. In addition, repairs of sulphur storage facilities are not necessarily successful.
A faulty repair only leads to higher costs and the unwanted prospect of "repairing the repair." ....
An unplanned shutdown of sulfur pit operations is a cost no facility can tolerate. That fact alone should dictate the manner in which structural concrete repairs are planned and implemented. The best repair strategies will make sense from both a technological and economic standpoint. They should be carried out by a team of technicians highly experienced in the repair of these structures, so that the project can be completed quickly and efficiently either during a planned shutdown period, or under emergency conditions. (1)
Then there is the danger posed by
transporting sulphur to and from the storage facility. The sulphur brought to the site will be loaded and transported in liquid form. Tankers that turn over in transport (they frequently do) can and do often spring leaks.
Sulphur burns, and
sulphur fires are not that easy to put out. That is on account of the sulphur dioxide (heavier than air) produced by such fires as well as because the sulphur dioxide, if brought into contact with water, will be converted to sulphuric acid.
That means that anyone who breathes even a minimal amount of sulphur dioxide into his lungs will experience that the water contained in the
mucus in his throat and lungs will instantly react with the sulphur dioxide and convert it into sulphuric acid.
Even if no fire should result from a transport spill, the leakage is difficult and perhaps impossible to clean up. Where transport spills do occur, the evidence of a spill remains for years in the form of soil that will prevent any vegetation from growing where a spill happened.
Moreover, although the plans for the Hazco design
for the storage facility previously proposed for Gibbons provide for a deposit in the order of $5 million dollars for the work necessary when the storage facility environment is eventually to be restored to its presently pristine condition, the facility will for all intents and purposes be in place indefinitely, for as long as oil, natural gas and the Tar Sands will be used for fuel and energy production.
It is intended that the Shell Scotford Upgrader will dump the sulphur it produces (in the order of 2,000 tons per week) at the proposed HAZCO sulphur storage site east of Bruderheim. That is just the beginning. More syncrude upgraders are to be built, and HAZCO intends to offer storage at its proposed storage site for all of the sulphur that all of the upgraders in the vicinity and northern Alberta will produce.
As of now it is not at all clear as to who will own the sulphur to be stored at the proposed site. Consider that when a fire happens and damages occur, there will quite possibly be a lengthy and expensive legal argument about whether
the owners of the sulphur (of whom there will logically be many) or the operators of the storage site will be held liable for damages.
The costs of a sulphur fire or of any other environmental damage caused by the sulphur storage site will potentially be enormous to the residents surrounding the site. Not only that, but it is not merely the
details of the destination to which residents will have to be evacuated in the event of a fire but what about their crops and their livestock?
If nothing else, sulphur stinks. Things are bad enough in the County of Lamont and in the Bruderheim and Lamont areas during certain times of the year when the residents have to cope with the stink produced by the sewage lagoons for Bruderheim and Lamont or when temperature inversions cause polluted air from the chemical plants in the vicinity of Saskatchewan to waft in and to hug the ground. Once the sulphur storage facility is in place, the residents in those areas will then as well have to put up with the stink produced by the sulphur storage facility. (See map of homes, farms and businesses located near proposed sulphur storage project;
MS-Word doc - 39kB, and satellite maps for Bruderheim (82kB JPG file) and Lamont (11kB JPG file) areas.)
The supply of the enormously popular "NO to HAZCO Sulfur" signs
has run out, but 200 more signs have been ordered and are expected to be assembled and ready for pick-up by October 26, 2005.
You can make arrangements for picking up your sign by calling 499-7618.
HAZCO's answers to frequently-asked
an in-depth view of HAZCO's intentions take a look at HAZCO's answers to
"frequently asked questions". Consider not only what HAZCO states but what it does not state.
The comments provided in response to HAZCO's selective and biased answers provide information not mentioned by HAZCO.