Turbine Oil Tank Ruptures at Reno Plant


A rupture in a pressurized lubricating oil tank caused an oil spill at the Ormat geothermal plant in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 17. No fire or injuries were reported.

An estimated 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of lubricating oil was spilled after the noon time rupture occurred with a loud sound, similar to that of an explosion. The turbine lube oil is a hydraulic that lubricates the turbines in our geothermal operations, Randy Peterson, general manager of Ormats Northern Nevada operations, told Lube Report.

Another 200 gallons of isobutane was also released into the air. A colorless, odorless liquefied gas, isobutane is extremely flammable and heavier than air. It is often used in refrigeration and as a propellant in aerosol sprays.

Within an hour, local Washoe County Health Department officials, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration responded to the incident, said Peterson.

The entire spill was cleaned up by the next day, said Steve Frady, an information officer with the Reno Fire Dept.

We do not know the nature of the rupture but the matter is still under investigation, Peterson said.

Headquartered in Reno, Ormat develops and operates geothermal and recovered energy generation power plants utilizing in-house designed and manufactured equipment.
According to its website, geothermal energy is formed when both high pressure hot water – created by the earths molten magma and groundwater – and its steam are used to drive turbines in power plants, converting heat energy into electrical energy. The company says it is the third largest geothermal power producer in the U.S. with facilities in Guatemala, Kenya, Nicaragua and the Philippines.

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