Icepak confirms propane use

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Icepak confirmed to the NZ Herald on May 1 that it was using highly flammable propane at its Waharoa plant but at the time of the report was cagey about its use at Tamahere. The company’s confirmation came later.

In the May 1 report, Icepak managing director Wayne Grattan only told the Herald the flammable refrigerant was being used at its Waharoa factory near Matamata.

Grattan said the company would convert to the less flammable freon gas within the next week.

Asked if the change was brought on by the explosion at Tamahere, Mr Grattan said: “The changes are because we don’t yet know what has happened at Tamahere.”

Mr Grattan said the company received a $60,800 grant from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to part-fund a demonstration project using propane at Waharoa last year.

A spokeswoman for the EECA said the grant was to help with the additional costs of using the refrigerant, including safety equipment and gas sensors, which Icepak had at its Waharoa site.

The EECA did not know if propane refrigerants were used at Tamahere.

Fire Service spokesman Scott Sargentina said to the best of the service’s knowledge, propane was the refrigerant used in Tamahere.

“But we certainly can’t confirm at this stage that it had anything to do with what caused the explosion in the first place,” he said.

Mr Sargentina said the Fire Service was investigating the number of coolstores that used the refrigerant to forewarn firefighters attending callouts at future incidents.

He said details of whether the firefighters attending the Tamahere callout were forewarned would become available when a report was completed, within the next 90 days.

Mr Grattan said the company was a few weeks away from deciding whether the Tamahere site would be rebuilt.

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