Crews remove pentane gas from Puna geothermal plant amid safety concerns

Published: May. 8, 2018 at 10:46 AM HST|Updated: May. 10, 2018 at 4:56 PM HST
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PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crews have successfully removed all pentane gas from Puna Geothermal Venture early Thursday after residents raised concerns about safety threats posed by ongoing eruptions.

The removal of 60,000 gallons happened a day after Gov. David Ige signed a supplemental emergency proclamation.

By Wednesday evening, crews had successfully removed 30,000 gallons of pentane from the plant.

County officials said all pentane gas was taken to Shipman Industrial Park by 3:15 a.m.

Gov. David Ige said in a news conference on Wednesday, the proclamation was needed to ensure that the plant was taking the right steps — quickly enough — to ensure public safety.

"We were not satisfied that they were acting quickly enough" to mitigate the risk, Ige said, adding that the blast radius from the stored pentane could be as wide as a mile. "They said they would get on it and they haven't, which is why I'm taking this action today."

Ige also stressed that the plant does not pose any immediate risk to the public.

"The facility is stable. We are being proactive and we want to make sure we can take the actions necessary," he said. "We want to be certain that we have the authority to act decisively if necessary."

The proclamation comes after days of growing concerns about the safety of the plant, and after Puna Geothermal Venture has repeatedly said it is doing everything it needs to do to protect the public.

Lava is now within about a half a mile from Puna Geothermal Venture.

In addition to the stored pentane, there were concerns about what would happen if lava reaches underground wells at the plant, Ige said

Shortly after the eruptions started, Puna Geothermal shut down operations. Officials subsequently told community members that all of its wells had been closed, and that there is no geothermal steam or brine emissions at the plant.

But residents questioned those statements, and have raised increasing concern in recent days.

"Everything seems to be going on under the cover of secrecy," said resident Steve Hill. "They don't even acknowledge what's going on."

PGV is a geothermal energy conversion plant and the electricity generated there is sold to Hawaii Electric Light Company and then distributed to customers around the island.

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