CSB to investigate Tesoro Anacortes refinery blast

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 5 -- The US Chemical Safety Board sent a 4-member team to investigate an explosion and fire that occurred in the early morning hours of Apr. 2 at Tesoro Corp.’s Anacortes, Wash., refinery. The incident killed 3 people and injured 4 others.

The San Antonio-based independent refiner-marketer confirmed that the accident occurred at 12:30 a.m. in a naphtha hydrotreater, which was undergoing maintenance at the 120,000 b/d refinery north of Seattle. The fire was contained around 2 a.m., and there was no immediate off-site impact, officials said.

They said that the county sheriff’s department was notified immediately, along with the State of Washington’s Labor and Industries Department and the local air-quality district. Tesoro’s Emergency Incident Command was activated and the affected refining units were shut down and stabilized, they indicated.

“This is a very sad time for our organization,” said Bruce A. Smith, Tesoro’s chief executive. “Everyone in the Tesoro family appreciates the impact that this will have on the families involved, and we are responding quickly to ensure the safety of our employees, contractors, and the neighboring community.”

CSB Chairman John S. Bresland noted that the federal agency already is investigating an October 2009 flash fire at Tesoro’s 58,000 b/d Salt Lake City refinery, which occurred when flammable liquid overfilled a flare stack and ignited.

The large-scale deployment to the refinery near the Canadian border will complicate CSB efforts to complete other important cases, including investigations of the Caribbean Petroleum fuel terminal fire near San Juan, PR; the Citgo refinery hydrogen fluoride release and fire in Corpus Christi, Tex.; and the ExxonMobil Corp. refinery hydrogen fluoride release in Joliet, Ill., he noted.

“The CSB has 18 ongoing investigations,” Bresland said. “Of these, seven of these accidents occurred at refineries across the country. This is a significant and disturbing trend that the refining industry needs to address immediately.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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