Dislodged Valve sets Plant Fire

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 @ 05:12 PM gHale


A dislodged valve ignited a blaze at a San Antonio, TX, refinery last week forcing 60 workers to evacuate the plant. This is the second fire in two years at the plant.

No injuries were reported. Authorities initially said the call came in as an explosion, but refinery operator NuStar Energy said there had only been a fire at its plant.

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The fire started when a contractor installing some tubing dislodged a valve within the facility’s crude unit, said NuStar Energy spokeswoman Mary Rose Brown. That caused the release of a small amount of kerosene, which then vaporized and ignited, she said.

The facility’s crude unit immediately shut down during the incident, Brown said. It didn’t appear the refinery sustained significant damage, though the company did not yet know when the plant would start back up, she said.

The same refinery caught fire in May 2010 under different ownership. One worker in that fire suffered critical burns after an 18-wheeler they were loading with fuel exploded, setting off a chain reaction of smaller explosions.

Other employees received minor injuries in that blaze and residents within a half-mile of the facility ended up evacuated. The plant was then run by AGE Refining Inc., a small refinery that had filed for bankruptcy a few months earlier.

NuStar Energy purchased the facility in April. Brown said the company has invested “tens of millions of dollars” in improvements since then, including additional firefighting equipment and training.



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