Refinery Explosion Injures One Worker in Texas

Workers at a refinery in Pasadena, Tex., are thankful that a fire and series of explosions the day after Thanksgiving didn't injure more employees.

Workers at the Crown Central Petroleum Corp.''s Pasadena, Tex., refinery had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend.

A fire and series of explosions at the refinery on Nov. 23 created a fireball that could be seen from miles away, but only one worker was seriously injured. He was treated for second degree burns at a local hospital and released. The company says that no other serious injuries were reported.

Fortunately, the incident happened while the plant was being shut down for routine maintenance and upgrades - known in the industry as a "turnaround."

The fire occurred while liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was being transferred from a pressurized vessel. In what appears to be an equipment failure, the LPG was released to the atmosphere. The LPG ignited, and the resulting fire damaged a second vessel, which ruptured. The second vessel also contained LPG.

LPG is a hydrocarbon mixture consisting primarily of propane and butane. It is a gas at room temperature, but is kept as a liquid in pressurized vessels. It is very similar to the fuel used in gas barbecue grills, camping appliances, and as a heating fuel for some homes.

No one outside the plant was injured or endangered by the fire. No hazardous levels of any substance were detected outside the refinery, and no evacuation was required, according to plant officials.

The entire facility is currently shut down. Operations will not be started until further investigation is complete, although plant officials indicate it could reopen soon.

The refinery is rated to process 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The principal finished products of the refinery are gasoline, diesel fuel, and #2 heating oil.

In a statement, the company said it "is grateful to the Pasadena Fire Department, to employees of other Channel Industry Mutual Aid companies, and to its own employees who responded promptly to the fire."

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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