Propane Frozen Earth Storage (FES) Decommissioning

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The FES (Frozen Earth Storage) was commissioned in 1966 as a refrigerated atmospheric cavern for storage of Propane at the refinery. Due to the features of the design and unique subsurface conditions that resulted in Propane leaks, Valero was ordered to close the FES by end 2010, and cease emissions from the cavern. The FES has a self supporting Propane refrigeration system to freeze the cavern walls, and maintain the cavern pressure operating and design pressures.
    Location: Delaware City, Delaware, United States
    Region: Americas
    Service Offering: Engineering & Design
    Market Sector: Oil & Gas
    Client Type: Private Sector
    Status: Complete

    The project was comprised of the following unit operations for developing the decommissioning plans and final closure:

    • FES Storage Cavern
    • Propane Bullet Feed Storage
    • Flare
    • Refrigeration System
    • Propane well pump/transfer
    • Utilities (Propane, Steam, Air)

    MWH initially developed a decommissioning plan for approval by the State of Delaware regulatory agencies, and then upon approval implemented all geotechnical and process design to complete the final decommissioning plans for the facility.
    MWH completed the decommissioning design and procedures, backfill execution plans, demolition scope, and PHA (Process Hazard Analysis) studies for the project, in addition to well drilling and testing to establish existing groundwater conditions.

    The project total capital cost was $15M. The project included Process Engineering, Thermodynamic Analysis, P&ID walk-downs, Piping Design, Geotechnical Studies, PHA’s, MOC (Management of Change) reviews and overall PSM (Process Safety Management) compliance within the Valero facility.

    MWH developed design packages in accordance with the client’s PSM compliance needs, and integrated the designs into the existing MOC procedures at the refinery.

    All six MOC packages were reviewed with the refinery engineering and operations staff. Four MOC Packages were taken into PHA review sessions, and appropriate action items developed and resolved within this phase of the project.

    The geotechnical scope was also developed into the final two MOC packages, reviewed and issued for downstream bid phases.

    MWH provided MOC packages for a Process/Mechanical Subcontract and Geotechnical Backfill services. MWH provided subcontract procurement support, bid evaluations to allow Valero to award contracts to PSM compliant contractors, authorized to work at the refinery.

    The Decommissioning design phase was completed ahead of schedule and on budget, and with no revisions to the original contractual scope and price.


    • Decommissioning System Planning and Execution
    • Process Engineering and Thermodynamics
    • Process Design and PSM Compliance
    • Geological and hydrology studies
    • MOC/Bid Packages
    • Mechanical and Piping Design
    • Civil Design
    • Structural Design
    • Geotechnical Evaluations
    • Geotechnical Backfill Design
    • MWH was recognized with the best Industrial/ Manufacturing project of 2012 award by Engineering News Record (ENR) for the Propane Frozen Earth Storage (FES) Decommissioning.

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    Delaware City, Delaware, United States
    39.5778901, -75.58881500000001

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