HL Deb 02 June 1980 vol 409 cc1245-7WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make a statement about the proposed test releases and ignition of liquefied natural gas at a Ministry of Defence establishment at Maplin Sands; and whether the permission of the local authority and/or the approval of the Health and Safety Executive are required for these tests; and whether tests involving the release of this gas into (as opposed to onto) water are proposed and if so, when and where.


During this summer, trials to confirm predictions of the behaviour of liquefied natural gas and liquid propane gas after spillage are to be carried out by Shell Oil (UK) Limited at a site belonging to the Ministry of Defence's Proof and Experimental Establishment at Shoeburyness, on the Maplin Sands. The aim of the tests, which form a continuation of a long-term programme of safety research by Shell, is to extend the results from previous smaller-scale tests carried out in this country and elsewhere. Her Majesty's Government welcome the decision by Shell to carry out these tests on the company's own initiative. It is expected that the results will be published fully, and they will form a useful addition to the current body of knowledge on this topic.

The use of the Proof and Experimental Establishment's facilities by Shell is an example of the service which is provided by the Establishment to industry, on a commercial basis. The location and facilities of the site make it particularly suitable for the safe and secure conduct of such work, when it can be fitted in in addition to the usual programme of defence tasks.

The tests will be carried out under the safety and security direction of the Proof and Experimental Establishment, and they will be monitored by the Health and Safety Executive under the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure that they comply with the requirements of current safety legislation.

The permission of the local authorities is not specifically required for these tests as they are consistent with the wide variety of types of operation for which the site is normally used. However, local authorities have been made aware of the proposals as part of the usual informal liaison between themselves and the Establishment.

Shell have indicated that the present series of tests do not involve the release of liquefied gases into (as opposed to onto) water. The Health and Safety Executive is not aware of any other proposals to carry out tests involving the release of liquefied flammable gases under water.