Residents of Meraux, Louisiana saw dark smoke on the horizon for hours on Saturday night, April 23, sparking concerns about air quality and community safety.
The culprit? A fire had broken out at in the “Rose Unit” at the Valero Energy Corp. oil refinery after an explosion at around 5:15 pm local time. The cause of the fire appears to be a leak that caused a product to burn, but details are currently unclear.
Meraux, a town just 15 miles outside of New Orleans, is home to approximately 11,000 residents and the Valero Meraux Refinery, which employs nearly 300 workers. Acquired by Valero in 2011, the complex refinery processes crude oils into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and high sulfur fuel oil with a capacity of 135,000 barrels per day. As the second-largest refiner in the United States, Valero operates 15 refineries in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.
After Saturday’s fire, two Valero workers and six contractors were transported to local hospitals with severe burn injuries.
This isn’t the first time the Valero Meraux Refinery has been the site of fire and explosions. Just after midnight on April 10, 2020, an explosion with unknown causes damaged the hydrocracking unit and injured one worker, who was quickly transported to the hospital. In February 2017, a compressor burned in a low-traffic area. Fortunately, no workers were injured in the fire.
The investigation into the cause of the latest explosion is still underway. Our New Orleans refinery accident lawyers are following this incident closely.