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August 24, 1998

UCSC to burn off propane as it dismantles gas storage facility

By Francine Tyler

In early August, tanker trucks drained liquid petroleum gas, or propane, from three 30,000-gallon tanks at UCSC's natural gas storage facility on Empire Grade road.

The removal of the propane was one step in a five-part process to dismantle the gas storage facility, located between the campus's main entrance and the Arboretum. Another step will be taken August 31, when workers will begin burning the residual propane gas in the tanks.

The burn is expected to last up to four days and will consist of one flare, said Jim Hagler, director of Physical Plant.

The final step will take place in late September, when the system will be flushed with nitrogen and the three tanks removed from the site. Nitrogen is an inert gas that makes up 80 percent of the air we breathe.

Pipes and a boiler will remain at the facility until decisions are made about how the area will be used in the future, Hagler said. Unlike a water tank that stands nearby, the gas-storage facility is only barely visible from the road.

Campus planners designed the facility to provide gas to the campus's laboratories, kitchens, generators, and water- and air-heating systems in the event that Pacific Gas & Electric Company's gas service was ever cut off.

The system was never used, however, and the facility is now viewed as a liability rather than an asset.

UCSC has grown so much that the backup system devised by the campus founders is insufficient to meet the university's needs in an emergency, explained Hagler. Also, based on past experience, the campus doesn't anticipate needing such a system in the future.

"We've had it here for 30 to 35 years and we've just never had a need for it," said Hagler. "PG&E's gas service has been good enough so that we have never been interrupted."

UCSC's Physical Plant is supervising the dismantling of the storage facility, which is being carried out by Dassel's Petroleum of Santa Cruz.

For more information, call Physical Plant at (831) 459-2994.

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