South Portland LPG storage proposal could turn on semantics

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SOUTH PORTLAND — NGL Supply Terminal Co. says its proposal to build a liquefied petroleum gas storage facility at Rigby Rail Yard is permitted because its tanks are not storage tanks, but “pressure vessels.”

According to a report on behalf of NGL, construction of six 60,000-gallon “pressure vessels” to hold LPG for distribution via rail car would not conflict with the city’s Code of Ordinances.

The question of a code discrepancy came up in April, when NGL’s proposal was scrutinized by members of the public and city councilors, who claimed that the proposal blatantly violated the city’s zoning.

The initial proposal from the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company included the installation of of the six tanks, totaling 360,000 gallons of liquefied petroleum gas to be stored in above-ground storage tanks.

Liquefied petroleum gas is defined in the ordinance as any material that’s composed “predominantly” of hydrocarbons, including “propane, propylene, butane and butylene.”

The code bars “no new above ground storage tanks (in excess of 25,000 gallons capacity – either individually or in the aggregate) for petroleum-based products,” unless a waiver is granted by the City Council and Planning Board.

NGL’s original application, submitted on Jan. 20, refers to the tanks as “above ground storage tanks” – which the new report cites as “technically incorrect under applicable codes.”

According to the report submitted this week by Chuck Easterbrooks, vice president of Maintenance and Turnaround Resources, on behalf of NGL, “the term ‘above ground storage tanks’ is used broadly to include different types of storage containers for many different products.”

NGL is now calling the containers “pressure vessels” because “liquid petroleum gas is stored at high pressure to keep it in a liquid state,” according to the report. 

Further, according to the report, because the containers will be regulated by the state’s Board of Boilers and Pressure Vessels, “they are not, therefore, above ground storage tanks.” 

Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said his department “has not made a determination” on whether NGL’s tanks are pressure vessels rather than above-ground storage tanks. 

The city “will be consulting with our technical and legal advisers,” Haeuser said. “There is no timetable for this; we want to make sure we review all of these code interpretation issues carefully.”

The city has not yet heard back from engineer Tom Schwartz, of Woodard and Curran, who was hired earlier this month to interpret the city’s Code with regard to NGL’s application.

NGL’s site plan application is on hold “while we await the input of the third-party experts on the code interpretations,” Haeuser said. 

 Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.