Chevron Refinery Blast: Looking for Answers

Friday, June 3, 2011 @ 11:06 AM gHale


Oil giant Chevron Corp. wants to know what went wrong after an explosion at its oil refinery in southwest Wales left four dead and one seriously injured.

“We have immediately launched our own investigation which will run in tandem with the HSE’s (Britain’s Health and Safety Executive regulator) own investigation,” said a Chevron spokeswoman.

“One storage tank is out of action and another is damaged but other than that the plant remains fully operational. However, given the circumstances, non-essential work has been suspended today.”

The blast occurred at the 220,000 barrel per day Pembroke refinery Thursday night. Nearly half of the refinery’s output is gasoline. Police said a fire broke out after an explosion occurred in a storage tank during maintenance. An adjacent storage tank also suffered damage.

“Tank maintenance is a regular occurrence and this was planned work involving members of our contractor workforce, routine work which had been carried out before. The tank contained a component which refiners routinely use in the refining process,” the Chevron spokeswoman said.

According to the HSE’s enforcement database, the Pembroke plant had received one enforcement notice in recent years.

This notice cited the plant for “failure to demonstrate the company had identified safety instrumented systems.” HSE later noted the plant complied with the enforcement notice.

Ever since the BP Texas City refinery blast in 2005, concerns over refining safety remain top of mind for industry leaders. In that incident, safety shortcomings were common.

The Pembroke refinery is one of eight operating refineries in the UK and accounts for about 12 percent of total online capacity. However, any closure of the plant would be unlikely to cause major disruption to supplies Europe where supply already exceeds demand.



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