Gas leaked for over an hour before alarm raised

08 April 2016

A firm has been fined £21,000 for failing to recover a greenhouse gas that was released in the air.

Schneider Electric Ltd was ordered to pay a £3000 fine and costs totalling £18,368 following the leak at Stanford-le-Hope in Essex back in 2013.

The case concerned the release of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas from high voltage switchgear (HVSG) being installed at London Gateway Port.

Following the installation, part of the system, known as busbars, were found to be faulty and had to be removed from within the circuit breaker.

Ms Rooma Horeesorun, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, said the leaked F-gas will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

The Court was informed that Schneider Electric (SE) was sub-contracted by the principal contractor at the London Gateway Port project to install the switching gear.

After installation, Schneider filled and pressurised the circuit breaker chambers with SF6 gas, after which they discovered that the busbars were faulty and needed modification.

Schneider used its subcontractor, Metricab Power Engineering Ltd, to remove the busbars, however Metricab was not informed, and did not realise that the switchgear had been filled with the gas.

Consequently when the work was done on 10 June 2013 the SF6 gas was not recovered using F-gas qualified engineers (as required by the law) and was released to the earth’s atmosphere.

Schneider Electric reported the release to the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive.

Ms Horeesorun told magistrates that Schneider Electric Ltd did not generate any documents such as method statements or risk assessments in relation to SF6, or review the method statement and risk assessment prepared by Metricab.

The gas was released for 1-2 hours before an employee of Schneider Electric realised what was happening and raised the alarm.

The site was evacuated safely.

After the hearing, investigating Officer Claire Cox said: “This is an important result for the Environment Agency. This successful conviction demonstrates our commitment to ensuring compliance across all F-gas users and industries covered by these regulations.

“This particular case displays the long term environmental harm caused to the atmosphere which is likely to continue beyond our lifetime and for many generations to come.”

Original source