Cameron Family Glass Packaging: furnace leak at new plant

A massive leak of molten glass has shut down a new advanced bottle plant built for the growing north-west Pacific wine industry.
Firefighters sprayed about 3.78 million liters of water in 16 hours to…

A massive leak of molten glass has shut down a new advanced bottle plant built for the growing north-west Pacific wine industry. Firefighters sprayed about 3.78 million liters of water in 16 hours to cool and stop the glass from escaping from the bottom of an electric furnace in time to prevent structural damage to the plant at Kalama, about 35 miles north of Portland, Oregon. No injuries were reported following the leak early on 4 January 2009 and the cause of the leak remained undetermined on 6 January 2009, said Cowlitz Fire District 5 Captain Terry Sinkler and Lori Lecker, a spokeswoman for Cameron Family Glass Packaging. The leak, discovered after monitoring equipment registered a temperature loss in the area of the rupture, was next to a smaller hole that was found on 2 January 2009 and was patched by the factory staff without firefighter assistance, Ms. Lecker said. “Prior to that, we“ve had no problems with the melter leaking. It is very surprising to experience a leak of this nature so early in the life of a state-of-the-art melter”, she said. “All glass furnaces to some extent are custom-designed. This design has been used elsewhere in the world, and was customized in size and structure for our operation”, she added. About 125 tons of glass heated to 1,370 degrees celsius escaped into a basement containment area and about 325 tons remained in the 470-ton capacity furnace and must eventually be drained, Ms. Lecker said. Construction of the USD 80 million plant, described by Cameron as the first new glass plant devoted exclusively to wine bottle manufacturing in the US in 30 years, began in June 2007 and was completed in November 2008. It was promoted as being environmentally friendly, relying on a hydro-powered electric furnace and using recycled glass. The plant was in preproduction at the time of the leak and is expected to have about 80 workers when full operations begin at a future date. Firefighters were summoned by the plant staff shortly after 12:30 a.m. on 4 January 2009 and found molten glass oozing from a growing hole roughly 30 cm to 45 cm in diameter and falling onto steel beams, decking and electrical circuits. Nearly 40 firefighters managed to cool the superheated mass enough to slow and eventually stop the flow. Repair crews were waiting for the massive glob of glass to cool further before beginning repairs to electrical and other systems in the basement. Ms. Lecker said company officials expect “that a minor repair will fix the issue.” Firefighters were initially concerned for the integrity of steel beams supporting the furnace, because of the intense heat, but those fears proved to be unfounded, she added. “As far as we know, there“s no indication of structural damage at all. The fire department did a really great job,” she said.