Five Deaths Focus Scrutiny on Refinery Practices

"A deadly accident in the early hours of April 2 at the Tesoro  refinery 70 miles north of Seattle has focused attention on the petroleum industry’s plant practices and commitment to worker safety.

Five workers died and two were badly injured at the Anacortes, Wash., refinery during routine maintenance of a naphtha hydrotreater unit, according to Tesoro and the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). The board is investigating this accident as well as another at a Tesoro refinery in Salt Lake City that occurred last October.

“CSB has 18 ongoing investigations,” board Chairman John Bresland says. Of those, seven occurred at refineries, he notes. “This is a significant and disturbing trend that the refining industry needs to address immediately.”

Last year, the Anacortes refinery was cited for 17 “serious” violations by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). These citations are the highest category of state violations, and all were for the same unit in which the fire occurred, notes L&I spokesman Hector Castro. At this time, it is unclear whether the problems cited led to the fatal accident, Castro says. Along with CSB, L&I is investigating the accident."

Jeff Johnson reports for Chemical & Engineering News April 8, 2010.

See Also:

"Oil Refiners Under Scrutiny" (Casper Star-Tribune)

Source: C&EN, 04/12/2010