The Port of Falkenberg
11 Jul 2018

Cistern with hundreds of tons of heated sugar solution at risk of exploding


There is an explosion hazard at the port of Falkenberg, Sweden. A cistern tank with of hundreds of tons of molasses (a sugar solution) has heated up and is in danger of exploding, reports Aftonbladet News. An explosion could cause severe burns similar to heated oil.

(Photo above is generic, and show the overall port area of Falkenberg Terminal.)

This morning, Wednesday, the cistern was in the process of being emptied.

"But the process goes very slowly," says Rescue Chief Klaus Heinsvig.

"Slow as molasses"

The product in the tank is a by-product used in the production of animal feed. In order to pump the sugar solution - molasses - it needs to be heated up in order to the change the viscosity - when the molasses heats up it becomes more liquid. When it is cold, it moves about as slow as crude oil.

"It's probably probably somewhere in the heating process where something has gone wrong," says Klaus Heinsvig.

The rescue service has been in place since early this morning. First, the effort was aimed at trying to cool down the tank, but in the afternoon they started to drain it instead - because the ph value had fallen to an alarmingly low level.

When the ph level falls and the sugar solution becomes more acidic, the risk of fire and explosion increases.


Slow to heat - slow to cool

The problem is: it take a long time to heat molasses, and because of that, it also take time to cool it down. In the meanwhile, the sun has been shining on the cistern, contributing considerable solar heating to the product as well.

According to the manufacturer of the product, the tank with 500 tonnes of molasses must be emptied as soon as possible.

"We have been working to secure the cistern for several hours now. The risk of explosion remains and we can not leave the site. It seem we may be here for a while, "says Klaus Heinsvig.

Draining is slower than planned.

The rescue service has sectioned off a radius of 200 meters and the police have evacuated an area of  600 meters around the cistern.

If a person gets hit by the heated sugar solution, it can cause severe burns.

The rescue plan is to move the molasses by tank truck and dump it in a large gravel pit.