The Natrona County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday to consider a Texas company’s plans to build a bulk storage facility capable of housing flammable and combustible liquids.
Thomas Petroleum LLC, an oilfield services company, has proposed building a facility that would store up to 500,000 gallons of diesel fuels, oils and other chemicals needed to operate drilling rigs. The development is planned for 5 acres along N. Robertson Road at a site that once housed a pipe manufacturing firm.
The sale of the site to Thomas Petroleum is subject to the approval of a conditional use permit from the county. Companies proposing to store more than 12,000 gallons of flammable liquids in that area are subject to such a permit.
The plan has generated significant concerns among residents in the area, who worry about the safety risks posed by chemicals at the site. An application filed with the county planning office listed methanol and xylene as chemicals that would be stored at the facility, along with a host of diesel fuels and oils needed to operate drilling rigs.
“I personally raise trees and vegetables here. This is our sole source of income,” said Bruce Smidt, owner of Leeward Tree Farm, a short distance from the proposed facility. “It just seems to me that 500,000 gallons on this little site is a lot.”
Smidt said a group of 20 residents met over the weekend to discuss their concerns. He noted that in addition to worries over chemicals at the site, residents are concerned about traffic generated by the facility.
The company said in its permit application that it expects up to 35 trucks a day traveling to and from the facility.
Dennis Baker, a real estate agent representing Thomas Petroleum, said the Texas company has never recorded a spill or fire in its 34 years of operation. The company’s plans call for building four 40,000-gallon tanks to store diesel fuel and 15 tanks capable of each storing 8,000 gallons of oils and other lubricants, he said.
The tanks would be encased in concrete bunkers and surrounded by a berm to prevent spillage, he said. Thomas Petroleum does provide frack fueling services, but no substances used for fracking will be stored at the site, he said.
“Thomas Petroleum has a long standing history of being a good corporate citizen and has an excellent safety record,” Baker said. “Yes, there is a potential something could happen, but these people are doing everything in their power to ensure they have a safe operation here.”
Baker, in response to questions about traffic, said a paved apron would be installed to direct trucks off the road and keep traffic moving. He also said traffic levels were unlikely to increase much beyond their current rates.
The public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Natrona County Courthouse, 200 N. Center Street in Casper. If approved by the planning commission, the proposal will go to the County Commissioners for a final vote.