A propane leak occurred at around 5:15 p.m. on a semi-trailer tanker parked along the edge of the car park of a highway restaurant. The driver was cleaning the filters on the LPG distribution circuit. The filters were located between the bottom valve of the tanker and a motorised valve. The driver, who was not wearing gas-resistant gloves, burned his hand when he attempted to staunch the leak with a cloth. The public firefighters were alerted. They used two hydroshield nozzles and one variable-flow nozzle. A 250 m safety cordon was set up. Twenty-three residents of a housing development were forced to stay indoors. Twenty employees of a neighbouring company were also kept indoors as the company’s car park was located within the safety perimeter. Traffic along the two railway tracks located 150 m away was halted. High-speed train traffic was impacted (one train delayed for four hours, 10 trains delayed for two hours and 15 minutes, one train cancelled). Commuter-train traffic in the area was also affected. As a result, the SNCF provided replacement coaches. The air was tested with an explosimeter. No risks were found and the track was re-opened at 8:04 p.m. The leak, which had been partially stopped with a freeze plug, was completely stopped by a technician from a specialist firm. The load of propane was then transferred to a spare semi-trailer tanker. The firefighters left at around 2:00 a.m. An estimated 8 m³ of propane leaked out. The mayor came to the scene.
The leak was caused by faulty sealing of the valve on the bottom of the tank (failure? blockage?). According to the haulier’s hazardous goods transport safety adviser, the driver of the vehicle cleaned the filters because he noticed, during a previous delivery, that the tank was not emptying properly. He also wanted to follow the gas supplier’s recommendation and industry guidelines to clean the filters whenever the tanker is filled with LPG sold back by customers that do not have a filter fitted between their storage tanks and the tanker. He decided to do this on the car park, which appeared isolated, before making his next delivery. The gas supplier does not allow cleaning to be performed on customer sites or at its depots. The haulier had the semi-trailer tanker checked to find the cause of the problem. It also reminded its employees about the importance of wearing the right gloves. It is considering revising its procedure for buying back LPG from customers (if customers want to sell back their LPG, they must install an intermediate filter first).