So far in 2013, the U.S. has seen an incredible amount of refinery explosions and fires from coast to coast, causing a tragic number of injuries and fatalities. Unfortunately, these refinery accidents are often caused by a failure to adhere to OSHA guidelines, usage of old and outdated equipment, and/or employer/employee negligence. Below, we talk about the refinery fires and explosions our nation has seen so far this year.
ExxonMobil Refinery Fire – April 17, 2013
On April 17, an ExxonMobil refinery caught on fire in Beaumont, TX. The flash fire occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m. CDT in a hydrotreater heat exchanger that had been closed for maintenance; it caused injuries to 12 contract workers. These 12 workers worked for three separate companies: Signature Industrial Services, KT Maintenance, and Brock Services, LLC. Of the 12 injured, seven were taken to local hospitals for immediate medical attention and four were later listed as being in critical condition.
Marathon Refinery Explosion – April 27, 2013
Later in the month of April, an explosion and fire occurred at a Marathon refinery in Detroit, MI. According to local sources, the explosion occurred around 6:00 p.m., causing a fixed storage tanker to blow its top off. Local news reported that the explosion resulted from a tank fire, which had been extinguished around two hours after it began. Later, when rain hit the plant's sour water tank, it sent a distinct "rotten egg" smell through the area that prompted crews to retest and monitor air quality. Although smoke could be seen for miles and several residents were asked to evacuate, no one was injured.
Williams Olefins Plant Explosion – June 13, 2013
In Geismar, LA, an explosion occurred at the Williams Olefins plant on Thursday, June 13. More than 110 people were injured in the blast, including two fatalities. Per reports, the blast was most likely caused by the "catastrophic failure" of a heat exchanger, which was the immediate source of an investigation by both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). Residents up to five miles away from the blast felt it, saying it was similar to an earthquake; following the blast, a shelter-in-place was issued for those within a two mile radius of the plant.
St. Paul Park Refinery Fire – September 22, 2013
Around 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, September 22, a fire broke out at a St. Paul Park, MN refinery. Per reports, the fire occurred in the crude oil processing unit, with three separate fire departments in the area responding. Around four hours after the fire was first reported, it was completely extinguished. For those few hours, the crude oil unit where the fire occurred was shut down. There were no injuries reported; six firefighters and six refinery fire-brigade workers monitored the unit until 3:00 p.m.
Sinclair Refinery Explosion – September 27, 2013
Just after 10:00 p.m. on Friday, September 27, an explosion occurred at a Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins, WY. Local news reported that an explosion in the hydrogen unit led to an ensuing fire. With crew members specifically trained to extinguish refineries fires, Sinclair's own fire brigade battled the flames and put them out. First responding units including medics, police, and firefighters remained at the refinery until around 3:00 a.m., but no injuries were reported and no evacuations were necessary for local residents.
AAK Refinery Fire – October 1, 2013
Early in the morning of Tuesday, October 1, a fire broke out at an AAK refinery in Shively, KY near Louisville. Per reports, the fire was sparked when a tank of vegetable oil exploded. Within an hour, firefighters were able to put out the flames completely and no injuries were reported in the aftermath.
MeadWestvaco Specialty Chemicals Fire – October 21, 2013
Around 5:45 p.m. on Monday, October 21, a chemical leak and fire occurred at a MeadWestvaco Specialty Chemicals plant in North Charleston, SC. According to the MWV release, a leak that occurred during routine maintenance at the refinery eventually led to a fire. 15 minutes after the fire started, it was reported to have been contained; 40 employees were asked to evacuate the building, but were not required to leave the area. Five hours after the fire started, the fire department completely demobilized and left the building.