Defense Logistics Agency Energy is one step closer to shutting down 27 World War II-era underground storage tanks at Defense Fuel Support Point San Pedro, in California.
DFSP San Pedro, owned by the Navy, is closing after 37 years, to reduce government-owned and -operated infrastructure, and with it, costs for the Department of Defense.
“We’re doing the right thing, since commercial partners store bulk fuel and there’s no need to maintain a government-owned facility,” said John Cummings, chief of energy engineering for DLA Installation Support for Energy.
“Also, a previous DLA director [Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek] made a commitment to the Navy for a smooth transition, and the following director [Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch] agreed.”
More than 70 years ago, the War Department established DFSP San Pedro after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, because of its proximity to the Port of Los Angeles and to oil refineries. The facility consists of storage tanks, pipelines, pump houses, loading racks and other infrastructure. Its mission was to receive, store and distribute fuel in support of the Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Air National Guard. It operated under the authority of the Navy until 1980, when operations transferred to DLA Installation Support for Energy.
Officials decided DoD could save operating and maintenance costs by closing the facility. Initial closing began in February 2016 for 20 concrete 500,000-barrel underground storage tanks built in 1941 and 1942; six steel 500,000-barrel USTs built in the 1950s; and one steel 250,000-barrel UST also built in the 1950s. Workers will fill the tanks with a cellular concrete material and return them to the Navy. The project also includes the closure of valve pits, pump houses and pipelines.
“We have a very aggressive schedule as a cost avoidance in keeping the site open any longer than we have to,” Cummings said.
The contract was awarded ahead of schedule, within four months of the request for proposal. Contractors started preparing to close tanks and pipelines in November 2016, and in January 2017 began the closure process, Cummings said.
It takes about 10 days to pump a tank with “foamcrete,” a concrete with a foaming agent in place of traditional aggregates, making the material lighter and stronger than traditional concrete, he explained. As of March, the design project was about a quarter of the way done, and after the tanks are filled, the pipelines can be filled.
Todd Williams is the on-site project manager at DFSP San Pedro.
“We’ve had an unusually rainy season here in southern California, and we’ve faced challenges of landslides and shutdowns due to the rainy season,” Williams said.
The schedule has slipped due to weather and water supply issues, and although the project is for a three-year term, the contractor is working toward an aggressive six-month completion schedule, he said.
Williams said there are a number of engineering challenges. Making the regulators happy with the tank closure is a top concern. This includes the State Water Resource Board and the Certified Unified Program Agencies, which fall under the administration of the Los Angeles Fire Department. These entities regulate the underground storage tanks to preserve, enhance and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment and public health.
Other difficulties include water supply due to the aged infrastructure. Mixing the foamcrete requires a lot of water, which DLA must be able to supply. Shift work also presents its own set of challenges because the terminal operations contract workers are on a 24/7 operational rotation, he said.
Cummings added that another issue is protecting an endangered species, the Palos Verdes blue butterfly, and one classified as threatened, a small bird known as the California gnatcatcher.
“It’s really important not to affect their natural habitat and breeding season, so we can’t just run across with bulldozers; we have to be very sensitive,” he said. “Everything is coordinated with environmental groups at Seal Beach and our DLA Energy environmental remediation team, so contractors know where they can and cannot go.”
DLA conducted an assessment of the potential environmental impacts of the temporary closure in 2015. It determined that the temporary closure of DFSP San Pedro and use of other fuel facilities would not have a significant impact on the environment.
From Williams’ perspective, the closure helps meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2025 goal that all USTs be double-lined; those at DFSP San Pedro are not.
“This project reduces the liability for DLA Energy and DoD as a whole,” he said.
He explained that by providing fuel support through contactors, DLA can still support customers without the expense and environmental risk posed by the San Pedro site.
Strategic engagement is key, Cummings said.
“We’ve been able to establish partnering relationships between Installation Support for Energy and Navy Weapons Station Seal Beach, Naval Facility Southwest, Navy Region Southwest and Naval Facilities Engineering Command so we can make this project successful,” he said.
Although DLA Disposition Services is normally not involved in the disposition of real estate or storage tanks, it continues to be a key player in the cleanup of the DFSP San Pedro.
“We have prepared a memorandum of understanding between DFSP San Pedro and DLA Disposition Services Camp Pendleton for the receipt in place of property that is deemed as scrap,” said Barry Thompson, a DLA Disposition Services property disposal specialist. “On our initial visit, we inspected the property and verified which items will be considered scrap and which items will be considered usable.”
The usable property is delivered to DLA Disposition Services for the possibility of reutilization, transfer or donation, through a program that offers usable assets to other DoD, federal and state agencies. DLA Energy provides turn-in documents that indicate items are scrap while they remain at the DLA Energy location to avoid transportation costs.
There is no cost to either entity of DLA for the removal of the scrap, Thompson said. In fact, DLA receives a percentage of what the scrap is sold for.
DLA Installation Support for Energy provides the overall management of the $15 million closure effort. Completion will result with environmental compliance and successful transfer to the Navy, Cummings added.
Turn Up the Heat
Following the closure, DLA Installation Support for Energy project managers will oversee the testing of two aggressive technologies to clean the soil and groundwater around two tanks at DFSP San Pedro: electrical resistance heating and steam injection.
ERH is an aggressive remediation technology developed for the Department of Energy in the early 1990s. It delivers an underground current to an array of metal rods. The heat converts groundwater into steam so contaminants can be removed more easily. This technology will be used near Tank 3, where the fine-grained soil and clay will prevent the current from traveling outside the area.
This technique can simultaneously treat the petroleum in saturated and unsaturated soil, as well as groundwater. ERH is often used to clean sites where other technologies have had limited success, and to remediate quickly and completely.
The second technology uses steam injection coupled with a multiphase extraction of soil vapor and groundwater. By introducing heat below ground around the contamination plume, the fuel contamination is displaced and broken up, making the extraction easier. Steam injection is a very effective removal technique well suited for large sites, like Tank 20, with petroleum releases in sandy soils and moderate permeability, because the heat is well controlled by the lateral distribution of steam in the treatment area.
Selecting the most appropriate heating technology is influenced by the specific site’s subsurface permeability, as well as the properties and distribution of the contaminants.
This testing at DFSP San Pedro will determine how to best implement proven technologies at other tanks in the fuel facility to meet the aggressive schedule at DFSP San Pedro.
“There are two reasons we’re doing this: to promote the cleanup of the site and to facilitate return of the property back to the U.S. Navy,” said Carol Heeney, DLA Installation Support for Energy project manager.
Both technologies are cost-effective and efficient, and the test will provide the site-specific data necessary to implement them, Heeney explained.
Cleaner, Faster, Cheaper
Laura Fleming, environmental division chief for DLA Installation Support for Energy, explained that the new technologies will take less than two years to remediate the World War II-era site, with an overall cost savings of up to $20 million, compared with standard commercial technologies that would take up to 40 years.
“It’s not intrusive, and there should be minimal or no disturbance to the habitat. But we will need to evaluate this before we initiate the pilot test,” Fleming said. “Basically, probes are put in the ground and they are either injected with steam or electricity that ‘cooks’ the soil. The fuel vapors are collected using a vacuum technology to avoid emissions into the air.”
“DLA is completing a large and very complicated remediation at a heavily regulated site,” Heeney said. “All the while, great care is taken to prevent and minimize impacts to the sensitive ecological habitat at DFSP San Pedro.”
She noted that DLA chose to test two tanks in areas with differing geology and physical composition.
“The testing will tell us how to apply these two technologies for other tanks in the area,” she said.
Once the contract award is complete, the pilot testing is expected to take less than 10 months, including equipment installation and the remedial operation.
“We’re excited to get the pilot test started so we can meet leadership’s goals and reduce liability to the government,” Heeney said.
Following successful testing, DLA Installation Support for Energy plans to roll out similar cleanup technologies at other tanks in fiscal 2018 and 2019, based on funding availability.
DLA Fuel Site Supports Hands-on Rescue Training
Defense Fuel Support Point San Pedro served as more than a key Defense Logistics Agency Energy fuel facility when it recently hosted first responders practicing rescues of victims in confined spaces.
This past April, the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue team (Task Force 85), the DFSP San Pedro site manager and the contractor performed rescue entry drills into a valve pit and a fuel tank. The event gave 38 emergency personnel the chance to learn and practice rescue techniques in confined spaces.
“Gaining access to real confined spaces to train in is difficult,” said LAFD Station 85 Capt. Tim Werle.
To access such areas, the LAFD uses a custom technical rescue vehicle. The self-sufficient vehicle can power their equipment and lighting; provide air and hydraulic supply for the variety of lifting, cutting and breaking tools and equipment; and carry items, such as fiber-optic devices for state-of-the-art searching.
“The ability to have a controlled environment for training helps us to work on theories we have about better rescue operations,” Werle said. “The tanks at the fuel depot presented us challenges we were able to work through.”
Three shifts from LAFD Fire Station 85 participated in one-day training scenarios involving victims stuck in the bottom of a valve pit or in a fuel tank. In each scenario, rescue personnel must enter the tight space, then locate and extract the victim, whose status is unknown.
The lessons the rescue teams learned set the foundation for future missions, including tethering versus non-tethering entries, as well as search patterns and rapid extraction of rescue personnel, Werle said.
“These techniques allow the entry teams to perform their duties with greater efficiency, knowing the layout of the structures involved,” he said.
Given the closure of DFSP San Pedro, however, “this will most likely be the first and last time for this type of rescue training,” said Todd Williams, DLA Installation Support for Energy facility manager and on-site project manager at DFSP San Pedro.
— Elizabeth Stoeckmann