Sept 8-10, 2010 -- Bonaire Oil Fire


Click on the thumbnail for a map during this time period


On Sept. 8, at about 2 PM, a thunderstorm struck the north end of Bonaire.  Shortly after the brief storm cleared, we noticed heavy smoke coming from the oil depot up north just past Karpata.  Two lightning strikes had started two fires in the complex.  One was put out in a few hours and the other burned for three days, causing what the local papers have called an "ecological disaster".  The site of the persistent blaze was a 200,000-barrel tank that contained naphtha, a petrochemical feedstock used in Venezuela for blending both high octane gasoline and crude oil.

The terminal, known as BOPEC, is said to store some 12 million barrels of oil products in all, includiing crude, gasoline, distillates and residual fuel oils. The complex was built by the Dutch, but is now leased to Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, which uses the site to mix and ship crude and other petroleum products.  No refining is done at the site; it is simply a storage facility where the relatively shallow oil tankers that bring in oil from Venezuela's shallow ports can deposit their oil, which is then transferred to deep-draft vessels that take the oil to the USA and China.

The facility soon exhausted its supply of fire-suppressing foam; thereafter the authorities announced that they had no choice but to simply let the fire burn itself out.  The danger, of course, was that the intense heat would cause the fire to spread to adjoining tanks, which would in turn ignite adjoining tanks, until the entire complex had been destroyed.  

In the photo below a few tankers can be seen at the terminal which receives up to 25 tankers a month.  The fire closed the terminal and at least four tankers were forced to move offshore where they simply floated while they waited, since the waters are too deep for anchoring.

Wednesday Photos

Note the arc of water or suppressant being directed onto the smaller fire on the right side of the picture

Thursday Photos

8:30 AM -- flames are now visible ...

... and by afternoon they are higher

Heat/smoke caused its own local weather above the fire

The big picture: Klein on left and north part of Kralendijk on the right; taken from TT2

When it rained on the site ...

... the Gods-of-Irony provided a rainbow!

Thursday night we were invited to dinner at the home of Randy and Lourae (formerly cruising on the S/V Pizazz).  A few pictures of the fire from the vantage point of their home up in the hills overlooking Kralendijk:

Friday Photos

We retired on Thursday night thinking that surely the fire had already spread to other tanks, and that the whole complex would soon be aflame.  Then on Friday morning we arose to find, to our amazement, that the fire was almost out!  We learned later that Venezuela had sent planes to dump chemical foam during the night to cool down adjacent tanks and to extinguish the blaze.  The pictures below show the progression throughout the day of the diminution of smoke smoldering from the partially-melted tank.

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