Chemical safety board investigates Motiva refinery accident in Delaware


By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, July 26 -- The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Wednesday dispatched a team to investigate the failure of a storage tank containing spent sulfuric acid at Motiva Enterprises LLC's Delaware City, Del., refinery.

Eight people were injured in the release and accompanying fire at the 152,000-b/d plant. One contract employee was still missing (OGJ Online, July 20, 2001).

CSHIB said the July 17 rupture occurred about the time of maintenance operations near the tank. The release of spent acid was ignited. Five contract employees reportedly were welding on metal catwalks above the tanks.

The board said 660,000 gal of acid had been released, according to a new estimate from Motiva. Thousands of fish and crabs were killed when the acid reached the Delaware River.

CSHIB said Motiva is attempting to remove acid from the remaining five tanks, which may be leaking their contents, and they are building additional containment walls in an attempt to limit further off-site environmental damage.

The board said Motiva Enterprises Monday informed several government agencies that the collapsed tank was overdue for inspection, had open work orders to repair a hole, had been recommended for removal from service, and had previous vapor and liquid releases.

Andrea Kidd Taylor, a member of the CSHIB board, said, "Our investigation team will be looking at, among other items, just what was known about the condition of the tank, the company's hazard evaluation process, and the adequacy of their procedures."

The board is an independent federal agency, similar to the National Transportation Safety Board, which determines the causes of refinery and chemical plant accidents, issues safety recommendations, and studies chemical safety issues.

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