On the issues that matter in Malone NY (USA)

BESS Bombs : Part 2

The huge explosive toxic batteries the wind & solar companies are sneaking into your backyard

Calvin Luther Martin

August 28, 2019

Watch this PowerPoint (right) made several years ago by the Senior Laboratory Safety Coordinator, Pam Koontz, at the Univ. of Tennessee (Knoxville). The cover image was added by me.

Notice this slide (#32) from the PowerPoint.

The video, below, evidently taken by a security camera at a chemical plant in So. Korea, graphically illustrates the horrors of HF.  (There is no soundtrack.)  Everyone you see in the video, died.  Immediately.  Read the details, below on the left. Use the + (zoom in) button to expand the text or, better yet, click on the pop-out icon in the upper right corner.

In case you’re thinking this can’t happen with these BESS Bombs — think again. The article below, published in Nature, the world’s most prestigious science journal, will disabuse you of any such notion.

Focus on the article’s conclusions (pp. 6-7), shown here. (You can pause the carousel by hovering your mouse over the text.) 

 "If extrapolated for large battery packs, the amounts [of HF] released would be . . . 20-200 kg for a 1000 kWh [1 MW] battery system, e.g., a small stationary energy storage [system]." 

As it happens, the township next to mine is about to allow a 20 MW BESS to be built sometime this fall:

(1) 20 x 20 kg = 400 kg = 882 lbs of HF

(2) 20 x 200 kg = 4000 kg = 8,818 lbs of HF

Ponder this schematic of an oil refinery.  Note the innocuous-looking tank of hydrofluoric acid (or HF gas, which becomes an acid once it’s exposed to humidity or other H₂O).  

Hydrofluoric acid has been used in the oil refining business for many years as a catalyst for making high-octane gasoline. Over the course of time there have been numerous fires, some of them spectacular explosions.  Only by the grace of God have these onsite tanks not been ruptured by shrapnel.

I recommend reading the following 4 articles, discussing the danger of HF use at refineries, some of them being located in heavily populated metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.  Experts calculate that over 16 million people would be directly affected by an HF leak from these refineries.

For a more detailed analysis of the oil industry and its use of HF and MHF (Modified Hydrofluoric Acid) and their hazards, visit the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance (TRAA) Science Advisory Panel website (click here).  Also read this 2018 article by an independent, Los Angeles journalist named Larry Buhl, “Activists and Oil Refiners Square Off Over Hydrofluoric Acid” (click here for PDF).

In June of this year there was a huge explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia.  (Read about it in one of the articles, below.) The video, to the right, shows the moment the plant exploded in a gigantic fireball.  Tens of thousands of pounds of HF gas were stored onsite in above-ground tanks as this holocaust rapidly unfolded.  Miraculously, Philadelphia was spared from being “gassed” by an enormous HF cloud.  

How many of you have heard of the Goldfish Release Test and its “fast-moving cloud” of hydrofluoric acid?

Can I have a show of hands? Hmm, just as I thought:  only a few.  I was a professor at Rutgers University at the time, living in Princeton, and I was paying attention to environmental issues.  Somehow this Goldfish thing never crossed my radar.  Hmm.

Yet another

the "fast-moving cloud"

Summer, 1986.  The Nevada desert.  At the same spot where the United States government tested nukes during the Cold War.  This time, it was a test of a highly toxic and disfiguring gas, hydrogen fluoride.  

Interestingly, the test was not done at the behest of the US government; it was done by the oil giant, Amoco, which was getting flack from the community surrounding its Texas City refinery about the use of HF.  I gather the locals were uneasy.  I gather Amoco wanted to prove that an HF leak could be easily dealt with, well before any harm was done.  

Amoco went the distance.  One must commend them for this.  They hired the gold standard, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, affiliated with UC Berkeley.  Dr. Ronald Koopman (PhD in physics), a Manager and Senior Scientist at the lab, was the ranking scientist for the test.  The protocol was simple.  A tanker truck was loaded with 5,000 gal. of HF gas, parked in the desert at ground zero, and a 1.65″ access valve was opened — remotely — while Koopman, Amoco brass, and all the other PhDs and engineers watched from a station over a mile away.  

Koopman had the foresight to film the event — now known as the Goldfish Release Test.  (Don’t ask me how they came up with that name.  From a James Bond movie, maybe?)  

The result was spooky.  Appalling, would be a better word.  Read about it in an article by the Center for Public Integrity, shown below, under the sub-heading “Fast-Moving Cloud.”  (Again, you can zoom in using the + icon, or better yet, you can enlarge the whole shebang by clicking on the pop-out button in the upper right corner.)

Now watch Koopman’s video, below.  Note that not all 5,000 gal. were released. After 2 minutes, 1000 gal. of liquid HF had been released — the liquid instantly turning into a ground-hugging vapor cloud traveling 18 feet/second (there was a wind).  Whereupon the valve was shut off.  The scientists and engineers had learned what they came to find out.

Watch the live video:

The table, right, summarizes the chief risks and target organs from Hydrogen Fluoride exposure.  But all that’s kind of academic-sounding.  Read the account, below, “Hydrofluoric Acid:  What You Need to Know,” wherein the author, Bradley Denney refers to himself as “an unwitting guinea pig.”  The following text is taken from the article:

Bradley Denney, RN/MICT, has been involved with the fire service for over 38 years and EMS for over 36 years. He has worked as a frontline firefighter and EMT to assistant fire chief and hazardous materials technician and paramedic. In 2007, he became a registered nurse. He has taught hazmat courses for fire, law enforcement and EMS, and taught HF-specific classes at the Kansas HazMat/WMD Symposium in 2006 and 2007. He also has over 15 years of experience working with HF acid in the oil refining industry. He was instrumental in initiating first-aid protocols in the refinery emergency facility setting that ultimately would save his life.

Picture of Bradley Denney, RN/MICT

Bradley Denney, RN/MICT

"The long-term effects of a significant HF burn are still unknown. I am an unwitting guinea pig of sorts. So far, I have experienced end-stage kidney failure, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, peripheral edema due to a compromised lymphatic system, a compromised immune system and other health problems. This doesn't even begin to account for the severe pain and disfigurement I continue to have. The best way to avoid this trouble is to be prepared and follow a well-planned and practiced response."


Thermal Runaway

Watch this Arizona Family News interview with Dr. Kevin Foster of the Arizona Burn Center who, apparently, was the senior attending physician for Capt. Clare, Engineer Lopez, Firefighter Cottini, and Firefighter Ciulla.  

lt's an explosion mixed with a chemical injury, mixed with traumatic injuries, mixed with thermal injuries. Chemical injuries are kind of special and different because the chemical continues to burn until it is removed or until it's neutralized. . . . lt's very difficult to say for sure what we're dealing with right now.

I tried contacting these 4 firemen in June — 2 months after this disaster, through various avenues, including the Peoria Fire Dept.  No one returned my texts or emails.  I have checked several relevant Facebook pages for news of their progress — without success.  Nor are there any follow-up local or national news reports.  

A deafening silence, as if they were bought off with a gag clause included.  If I read Bradley Denny’s article correctly, above, Dr. Foster’s prediction that all 4 will recover and be back on duty is naive.  Hydrogen fluoride is insidious and long-term.  I suspect the torment is just beginning for these men.

In the aftermath of the thermal runaway fire and explosions at the Arizona Public Service BESS plant (the McMicken Energy Storage Facility) in Surprise, Arizona on April 19, 2019, the State of Arizona launched an investigation by the Arizona Corporation Commission.  On August 2, 2019, Commissioner Sandra D. Kennedy submitted the following recommendation in a letter to her colleagues on the Commission:

After reviewing the reports and pertinent Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) about the 2019 battery fire at the APS McMicken Energy Storage Facility in Surprise and the 2012 battery fire at the APS Elden Substation facility in Flagstaff, what has become apparent is that utility scale lithium ion batteries using the chemistries in those types of lithium ion batteries are not prudent and create unacceptable risks, particularly those with chemistries that include compounds that can release hydrogen fluoride in the event of a fire and/or explosion.

— Arizona Corporation Commissioner Sandra D. Kennedy, August 2, 2019

Sandra D. Kennedy, Commissioner

Arizona Corporation Commission

Here, below, is the full text of Commissioner Kennedy’s letter, highlighted by me.  To the right are objections from, not surprisingly, Tesla and the Energy Storage Association.  

Read the ESA and Tesla rebuttals in light of my 2-part article.  I suspect you will find both of them mostly irrelevant (red herrings), disingenuous, jejune, and at times flatly wrong.  (As I read them, Shapiro’s “Law of Conservation of Corporate Evil” kept poking me in the ribs.  I imagine Commissioner Kennedy had a similar experience.)  

In sum, when it comes to BESS Bombs, be a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard).  An unapologetic one.

Remember, when you get a “clean, green” wind farm or solar plant next door, it’s more than just your view that’s spoiled.  

Last, when your town board decides to “host” a wind farm or solar plant, you and your neighbors — presto! — become guinea pigs. (Make sure you resign from the fire dept. before that Mayday call comes in.)


Apropos of the discussion of Tesla vehicles in Part 1, Volkswagen is taking advance orders on its new ID electric cars.  Click here.

Will these vehicles turn out to be “chocolate bar” bombs for guinea pigs like you and me?  Has VW done field tests (forensic tests) of these cars & batteries under the stress of vehicle impact (replicating a collision) or state-of-charge (SOC) and temperature & humidity variations?  If the batteries are indeed LiPF6, people have a moral right to know that they’re safe.  Advertising hype and blather won’t suffice, nor will corporate arrogance.

I scoured the Internet for substantive information on the composition of these batteries, and this is the best I could find, taken from here and here.  (Run your cursor over the image, below, to zoom in.)

1 thought on “BESS Bombs, Part 2: The huge explosive toxic batteries the wind & solar companies are sneaking into your backyard”

  1. Mark Twichell, DDS

    I see the Town of Chateaugay, NY is scheduled to receive a BESS unit. I wonder if the town has zoning regulations for such a facility.

    It looks like the Chateaugay BESS will be placed on land which has already been zoned for an electrical substation. Substations for connections to the grid for wind and solar facilities exist in many towns hosting renewable energy plants.

    I wonder how many such towns are even aware that a BESS could be located within their jurisdiction without their permission, if zoning regulations are non-existent?

    I anticipate that opponents of renewables facilities in rural residential neighborhoods will ask their towns to adopt zoning regulations for BESS as part of the code for any renewables facility. It will be interesting to see the towns approached by BESS salespeople, understating the risks of their lethal gas generators.

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