Sol fined $200,000 for fuel tank fire

Fire fighters attend the scene at the Sol fuel terminal in South Church Street on July 23, 2017, after a fire broke out inside one of the fuel tanks. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Sol Petroleum has been fined $200,000 for safety failures that led to a potentially catastrophic fuel tank fire in July last year.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of $86,700 to fund the investigation into the blaze, multi-sector regulator OfReg announced this week. Sol accepted and has already paid the fine, which the regulator says “is intended to reflect the potentially serious nature of the incident.”

A four-month investigation by OfReg, released earlier this year, said the July 23 fire was caused by welding work on an in-service diesel tank that was not properly monitored and should not have taken place.

The report from OfReg’s fuels department highlighted several breaches of industry safety standards by Sol and its contractor in carrying out “hot works” on a fuel tank filled with 15,000 barrels (525,000 gallons) of diesel fuel. The fire took more than eight hours to extinguish and caused a mass evacuation of homes in the surrounding area.

OfReg said it had “reached an agreement” with the petroleum company over the $200,000 “administrative fine.” It said the amount reflected community concerns and the seriousness of the incident, as well as Sol’s prior safety record, cooperation with the investigators and history as a “good corporate citizen.”

According to a statement from the regulator, “OfReg and Sol are satisfied that they have established and identified the circumstances and contributing factors leading to the incident and wish to reassure the public of the Cayman Islands, that where applicable, lessons have been learnt, shortcomings addressed and measures put in place to guard against any possibility of a repetition of the incident in the future, including an agreement that there shall not be any welding conducted on in-service fuel storage tanks.”

Duke Munroe, acting CEO and Director of Fuels (Market), said, “Our mandate as the regulator is to enforce relevant codes, standards and best practices adopted under the Dangerous Substances Law. We have worked closely with Sol to go over mitigation factors that will reduce the risks of similar incidents taking place in the future, and they have already implemented some measures relating to [the] incident.”