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Monday, July 21, 2014 @ 02:07 PM gHale

An explosion Thursday night at the Flint Hills Resources ethanol plant in Arthur, IA, shut down the plant until officials can inspect the damage.

The explosion occurred in a grain dryer, but officials are looking into the extent of the damage and the cause of the explosion, said Jake Reint, a spokesman for Flint Hills Resources.

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The plant employs 50 people and operates 24 hours a day, Reint said. No one suffered an injury in the explosion.

“First we want to make sure the situation is safe, then look at the extent of the damage and then go about repairs,” he said.

Reint said it was unclear when the plant would reopen.

According to the Flint Hills Resources website, the company purchased the Arthur ethanol production facility in September 2013. The plant began operations in 2008 and produces 110 million gallons per year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 @ 05:07 PM gHale

A Dunn County, ND, roustabout service is estimating that $80,000 worth of crude oil ended up stolen from tanks it maintains at two well sites north of Dunn Center.

Greg Krueger, the owner of K&R Roustabout, said he reported the theft of about 760 barrels of oil to the Dunn County sheriff’s office July 1.

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“Somebody is going in there and taking oil,” Krueger said.

Cornerstone Natural Resources owns the wells, but Krueger said a K&R pumper was the first to raise a red flag after the amount of oil calculated in tanks at two different sites came up short and didn’t match truck tickets.

Under North Dakota law, the theft would be a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $10,000 or both.

Dunn County Sheriff Clay Coker said his office is investigating the theft, adding that theft is the most probable answer to the missing oil because a seal to one tank was missing and a seal at another was broken. The sheriff’s office is unsure of the exact dates the thefts occurred, but they think they occurred over a weekend, Coker said.

Krueger said he thinks the thefts happened at night, adding the well sites that house the tanks are in secluded, rough terrain areas near Little Missouri State Park.

K&R has set up motion-activated cameras typically used for monitoring wildlife at well sites, Krueger said, to help prevent further losses.

North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Alison Ritter said her office’s production audit department is aware of missing oil and is doing its part to help the investigation.

“Like anything else, it’s a valuable property,” Ritter said. “But the big thing where we would come in is if we could look at other run tickets we receive, and if anything seems off where we could provide a lead, we could do that.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 @ 04:07 PM gHale

Employees were able to safely muster outside a facility after a chemical fire at the PeroxyChem plant in Tonawanda, NY, Saturday night.

Multiple crews responded to reports of a chemical substance which caught on fire in oxidizer equipment at the PeroxyChem plant. PeroxyChem said on Sunday the sprinkler system ended up activated in part of the warehouse by smoke coming from packaged product.

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There were no injuries but plenty of firefighters and equipment responded to make sure it did not get out of control.

There were employees in the area at the time but they safely evacuated as the sprinkler system went on. PeroxyChem was formerly a division of FMC.

Investigators are looking into the exact cause of the fire.

PeroxyChem’s Tonawanda plant manufactures persulfate and peracetic acid-based products used in environmental remediation, oil and gas production, and the food and beverage, industrial cleaning and personal care industries.

The Tonawanda plant has been in operation since 1926.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 @ 03:07 PM gHale

A fire possibly caused by an electrical problem at a Merrill, WI, factory Sunday morning caused an estimated $2 million in damage.

The Merrill Fire Department responded at 1:30 a.m. to a report of a “large amount” of smoke coming from the roof of Northern Wire LLC, according to a news release from the Merrill Fire Department.

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Firefighters found a large fire in the metal plating area of the factory, officials said.

The facility’s supervisor of maintenance told the fire department Friday night was the last time the metal plating production line was operating.

Officials continue to investigate the fire, which an electrical problems appears to be the initially cause, according to the release.

There were no injuries, officials said.

Thursday, July 10, 2014 @ 03:07 PM gHale

Five valves involved in the Lacey Township, NJ, Oyster Creek Generating Station’s cooling system are undergoing an examination from federal regulators.

“The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant was shut down last night (Monday) in response to degradation of electromatic relief valves (ERVs) that has been identified,” said Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesman Neil A Sheehan said. “Five such valves are involved.”

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Oyster Creek personnel replace the solenoid-operated valves that operate the plant’s five electromagnetic relief valves (EMRVs) during each refueling and maintenance outage. The solenoid valves then undergo testing in the maintenance shop to determine their condition.

“In late June, Oyster Creek staff tested five solenoid-operated valves that had been removed from the plant previously and determined that two of the five valves did not operate properly,” Sheehan said. “Oyster Creek staff disassembled the valves and identified more than expected wear on the solenoid-operating valve springs and support parts.”

Oyster Creek operators decided they needed a plant shutdown on July 7, to inspect the status of the currently installed solenoid operated valves associated with the EMRVs, Sheehan said.

The EMRVs and their associated solenoid valves are not accessible when the plant is in operation, he said.

NRC inspectors will independently assess the condition of the installed EMRV solenoid-operated valves once they are accessible during the current plant outage, Sheehan said.

The ERVs are part of the plant’s automatic depressurization system (ADS), which supports the emergency core cooling system. The ADS should depressurize the reactor during a small (pipe) break loss-of-coolant accident to permit the low-pressure core spray system to inject water into the reactor core, Sheehan said.

“Our resident inspectors assigned to Oyster Creek on a full-time basis have been closely following developments involving the evaluation of the valves and the decision to take the reactor off-line to address the issue,” Sheehan said. “They will continue to do so until the problem is satisfactorily resolved.”

The shutdown listed on the NRC’s “current events notification” page said:

“On July 7, 2014 at approximately [2040 EDT], an issue was discovered with currently removed Electromatic Relief Valves (EMRVs) that calls the operability of the currently installed EMRVs into question. Based on this new information, all 5 of the currently installed EMRVs were conservatively declared inoperable. With the potential of 5 EMRVs inoperable a Technical Specification shutdown is required under Technical Specification 3.4.b, whereby reactor pressure shall be reduced to 110 psig or less within 24 hours.”

Thursday, July 3, 2014 @ 01:07 PM gHale

A crack in the force main valve at a pump station was the cause of a leak of 10,000 gallons of sewage into the Kickemuit River and Mount Hope Bay area in Bristol, RI.

Workers repaired the system last Thursday night and the valve is no longer discharging sewage into the river.

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As a result of the leak, a shell-fishing ban was in place in the Kickemuit River area until further notice.

As precaution, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is advising people to refrain from contact recreation along the Kickemuit River.

The DEM will conduct sampling of the river water and shellfish to determine a date when the waters and shell-fishing are safe.

Monday, June 30, 2014 @ 07:06 PM gHale

A hazardous situation caused voluntary evacuations in Greenville County Friday morning.

A building that houses sodium hydrosulfite that ended up stored in the wrong container forced an evacuation Friday morning in Greenville, SC.

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It all started when a worker arrived at the New Life Chemical & Equipment in Greenville at 5 a.m. Friday and saw smoke in the building that stores the chemical.

Ron Rountree, New Life Chemical & Equipment’s president, said the solid-form of the chemical, which is like bleach, ended up stored in the wrong container and suffered exposure to humidity over night. The chemical smokes when in contact with water, Rountree said.

Almost 100 emergency workers from hazmat, sheriff’s deputies and fire crews were at the scene.

The Gantt District fire chief said they put out the smoking chemical with soda ash and no one suffered an injury. As a precaution, nearby roads shut down and businesses and neighborhoods evacuated. By 11 a.m., all roads and businesses reopened, and neighbors returned home.

New Life Chemical & Equipment is a soap surplus company making fabric softeners and detergent. It has been in business for 16 years. The company president said this is the first time an incident of this nature has occurred.

Monday, June 16, 2014 @ 09:06 AM gHale

After the refinery lost power, emergency management officials reported an air release at a plant in Catlettsburg, KY.

Marathon Oil Corporation has said in a memo the plant lost power when the storm rolled through Tuesday night.

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The power at the plant did come back up, but several flares flashed. Initial start-up emissions emitted that could have exceeded normal standards, officials said.

Air monitoring teams were taking air samples as were trying to get start-up problems resolved.

The Catlettsburg Refinery is the 31st largest U.S. oil refinery and its capacity is 242,000 barrels per day.

Friday, June 13, 2014 @ 04:06 PM gHale

An investigation is continuing as to how and why a makeshift bomb exploded at a Nogales, AZ, power plant Wednesday morning, damaging a large fuel tank.

Local officials received an alert at 9:30 a.m. to “suspicious activity” at UniSource Energy Services’ Valencia Plant. The explosion damaged a diesel storage tank, but there were no reports of injuries and authorities said they knew of no suspects or witnesses.

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Officials closed off the power plant and an adjacent car dealership on North Grand Avenue. The FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Arizona Department of Public Safety were all on the scene investigating.

On Wednesday night, agents were still processing the scene. Arizona Corporation Commission spokeswoman Rebecca Wilder said there were no power disruptions and the plant received only minor damage.

“The reason for the high-scale response is the plant is an electrical substation and critical to the area,” Nogales police Lt. Carlos Jimenez said, adding as many as 30,000 customers depend on the plant for power.

“The whole city of Nogales could have been compromised,” he said.

“Preliminary investigation determined that an incendiary-type device was found next to a large capacity fuel tank,” Jimenez said. The device “failed to compromise the tank.”

Plant operator UES is a subsidiary of Tucson-based UNS Energy Corp., the parent of Tucson Electric Power. UES provides energy to 237,000 customers in Arizona, according to the company website.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 @ 01:06 PM gHale

Investigations about the Deepwater Horizon incident paint a picture with words, but a new Chemical Safety Board (CSB) computer animation recreates the chilling scenario behind what really happened in the blowout disaster.

With the events leading up to the April 20, 2010 blowout, the video depicts how high-pressure oil and gas from the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico caused an explosion on the drilling rig that killed 11 workers and seriously injured 17 others. The rig burned for two days, eventually sinking and triggering the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

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The narrated animation illustrates how the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer failed to seal the well on the night of the accident because drill pipe buckled due to a mechanism known as “effective compression.”

In addition, the CSB talks about how the blowout preventer’s blind shear ram – an emergency hydraulic device with two sharp cutting blades meant to cut the drill pipe and seal the well – likely did activate on the night of the accident. Because the drill pipe buckled and resulted in being off-center inside the blowout preventer, it was only able to end up partially cut.

The video notes that although effective compression could be a hazard in other drilling operations, no one ever thought it would be a problem affecting drill pipe during well operations.

CSB investigators said this is an important finding because the same conditions that buckled the drill pipe during the Deepwater Horizon accident could occur at other drilling rigs – even if a crew successfully shuts in a well.

Click here to view the animation.