Oil leak to blame for at least one fire  at BPL, police say

A Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Fire Services Department report into fires that caused extensive damage at Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) Clifton Pier Power Station last year revealed that one fire was caused by an oil leak on the premises, and another was likely caused by the same problem.

The report, which was tabled in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, along with a report by Rimkus Consulting Group, revealed the results of investigations into four fires that occurred at BPL’s Clifton Pier and Blue Hill plants within a one-week period last September.

The first three fires took place in the same general area of the Clifton plant between September 7, 2018 and September 10, 2018.

The Rimkus Consulting Group report, which was completed in March and obtained by The Nassau Guardian in August, listed operator error on the part of BPL as the cause of the first fire. It said that either BPL’s attempt to troubleshoot an engine it had brought online, contrary to the manufacturer’s established protocol, or manipulation of a critical engine component during maintenance caused the fire.

Those two generators, 21 and 17 years old at the time of the fire, represented a loss of 63 megawatts (MW) of generation.

Addressing the findings of the probe into the second fire, which happened on September 8, the RBPF report reads: “An inquiry was made into the cause of this blaze as the conditions listed in the first fire cause remain. Several staff members were interviewed who provided information.

“The findings of the fire services are that oil had leaked from the generator and had ignited in the basement causing a fire to erupt.”

While there was no conclusion on the cause of the third fire, which happened less than two days after the second, the report said it is “likely” that the fire was also caused by leaking oil deposits.

“This fire was confined to the same general area as the two previous incidents,” the report reads.

“When the fire services arrived, BPL staff had extinguished the fire. It is uncertain if BPL had an opportunity to make any major improvements given that these events took place within a 48-hour period.

“It is likely that the fire may have been caused by leaking oil deposits as listed in the previous dire matters. There has been no conclusion and the cause is listed as unknown.”

The RBPF report said the fourth fire, which occurred at the Blue Hills Power Station on September 14, 2018, was caused by “overheated electrical wires in the circuitry panel”.

The report also had a number of safety recommendations for the Clifton plant.

It noted that while there are 22 high pressure fire hydrants, three were not working, and 14 had insufficient emergency equipment, such as hoses and fire extinguishers.

Additionally, of the three fire pump houses on site, one has been out of commission for over five years because the well is filled with oil.

The report found that in the basement, hoses and hose cabinets were corroded. Investigators found that hoses and nozzles were missing from hose cabinets throughout the property. They found that doors and panic hardware were found to be inoperable and corroded throughout the property. They also saw exposed wires throughout the property.

The report recommended that all the matters be addressed to improve the site’s fire safety.

BPL has yet to comment on the findings of either report.

The power company has been plagued by frequent power outages since May, primarily due to generation shortages. The tabling of the report on Wednesday, over a year after the fires took place, was the first time the company or government officials provided any official information on the findings of the probe into the fires, despite constant questions from the media and general public on the issue.

As he tabled the report, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said it was “unfortunate” that the report got into the hands of the media before the government decided to disclose it to the public.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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