Firefighters responded to the fire at at the Sol terminal on South Church Street in July. - Photo: James Whittaker

Sol Petroleum says it will work with fuels regulators to maintain a safe environment at the Jackson Point terminal, following an investigation report highlighting its culpability in a potentially catastrophic fire.

A four-month investigation by OfReg blamed the fire at the fuel depot in July on welding work carried out by Sol’s contractor on a tank filled with more than 500,000 gallons of diesel.

Hot works on an in-service tank are not explicitly outlawed by Cayman’s Dangerous Substances Law, but the report found that Sol and its contractor failed to follow proper safety protocols, failed to station a “fire watch” supervisor on the job at all times and ignored a safety alarm during the work. The report also indicated the state of the tank and the scope of the work meant that in this case, the tank should have been taken out of service and emptied before the welding was carried out.

Sol did not directly address those specifics in a press statement Wednesday, making a general commitment to the safety of the community, its employees and contractors.

It said, “As we progress with our review of the incident report, we reassure the community that Sol is committed to working with OfReg to maintain an environment where safety is at the forefront of all our activities.”

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The statement highlights Sol’s previously exemplary safety record, pointing out that it had not experienced a lost-time injury to any employee in 58 years in Grand Cayman.

“Sol reaffirms its pledge to ensure safe working practices and values are maintained throughout our organization, and all Sol employees and contractors share in this commitment,” the statement added.

OfReg’s investigation report also highlighted concerns that the July incident was not the first time Sol and its contractors had carried out welding work on an in-service tank in this way and recommended an overhaul of its procedures. In its statement, Sol said it would comply with OfReg’s recommendations.

“We will work with the OfReg as we continually improve our standards and protocols in accordance with industry best practice and OfReg’s recommendations,” it said. Duke Munroe, head of fuels at OfReg, said in a press release that it was examining “appropriate measures” to enforce on Sol following the report. He said the investigation findings would also mean a review of practices across the industry.

“First and foremost, mitigation measures to minimise or eliminate risks associated with events such as these are being comprehensively reassessed,” he said.

Work is also under way to improve communications in emergency situations following numerous complaints about the handling of an evacuation of homes and businesses within a one-mile radius around the fuel terminal during the fire.

Mr. Munroe added, “It was apparent that a better system of issuing evacuation notices and identifying evacuation routes was needed, as well as more appropriate communications to first responders. From our interagency cooperation and communications with Hazard Management, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Fire Service following this incident, we are able to make solid recommendations to increase the level of public safety awareness during events like these in the Cayman Islands.”

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  1. How does SOL have 58 years experience in Cayman with those fuel storage tanks ? Didn’t Texaco own and managed those tanks safely till the late 1980’s ? They must believe that everyone must believe everything SOL says . I would think that OFReg should watch them very closely that they dont try to weld on a million gallons tank of gasoline, because that would be catastrophic .