Massive fire in Transnet fuel pipeline in Alberton, Ekurhuleni
At 7h10 on 31 December 2019, City of Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services’ Alberton Fire Station responded to a fire call following reports of black dense smoke in their area. Reports were received of a fuel pipeline that was on fire and explosions could be heard by nearby residents. On arrival, Alberton Fire Station crews found a pipeline burning with a huge black smoke cloud and they started to evacuate residents living around Phillip Street. About 30 to 40 of the residents were evacuated to a nearby community hall while some visited their relatives. There were no injuries or any smoke inhalation incidents reported during operation. The first responding fire crew requested a backup from the district, region and then extended the request to metro. Thokoza Fire Station responded with a major pump, Wadeville Fire Station with a major pump and a water tanker and Boksburg Fire Station (station 16) responded with a foam tanker, Zonkezizwe Fire Station responded with major pump and water tanker and another foam tanker from Brakpan. Over 40 fire fighters were in action battling with the fire.
Aggressive fire fighting was initiated by means of foam as the fire started to spread to other areas, Transnet and their technicians were summoned to scene and upon their arrival they manage to isolate the valves. Natref and Transnet fire fighters also assisted with fire fighting. It was later reported that there were two lines, of which one was jet fuel and the other one was a mixer of diesel and petrol. This line was in the process of being decommissioned.
After realising that the fire was spreading next to an Eskom power line, Eskom was summoned to the scene and they also isolated the line that was affected by intensive excessive heat. Once the fire was under control by the use of TLB they remove the concrete slap that covered and protect the Transnet pipeline valves and later the Spill Tech truck came and started to drain the remaining fuel that was still on the pipeline and burning.
According to Transnet suspected criminality, as there was a huge manual hydraulic jack around the scene. The Incident was handed over to South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Labour and City of Ekurhuleni Environmental health to further with investigation
Transnet CEO Sibongiseni Khathi said the pipeline was one of Transnet's 3 800km, high-pressure petroleum and gas pipelines, which runs from Durban to Gauteng. "Transnet pipelines have experienced an unprecedented spate of theft incidents on our pipelines and the associated infrastructure during the last few months. The latest incident occurred on the 31st December 2019 in Alberton, where an attempted theft incident at a block valve occurred on our Durban to Johannesburg petroleum pipeline between Alrode and Airport, which has resulted in petrol spillage and fire," Khathi said in a statement shortly after the fire.
He added that the theft and damage to high-pressure pipelines have resulted in fires, asset damage and environmental risks, which bear "excessive remediation costs".
"An additional risk of the theft incidents is that the due to the nature of the petroleum products, some activities could result in serious injuries and/or fatalities," Khathi added.
While Transnet has implemented numerous plans to curb theft and damage to Transnet property, which have yielded positive results, Khathi said criminal activity was increasing and ongoing, putting nearby residents in danger.
Source: Eric Maloka, spokesperson for Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Services Management