A fire was reported early Wednesday morning at an ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where an explosion nearly one year ago critically injured several workers.
ExxonMobil Refinery Fire Sends Smoke, Flames into Air Over Baton Rouge
It appears that no one was hurt in this latest incident.
The blaze broke out around 2:30 a.m. on November 1st, sending plumes of smoke and flame into the air over Baton Rouge.
A volunteer fire crew made up of refinery employees responded to the incident and were able to contain the fire by 5:00 a.m. The flames did not spread beyond the unit where the fire started.
An ExxonMobil spokesperson confirmed that the fire was not the result of planned flare.
“ExxonMobil is monitoring air quality at the facility fence line and all readings are currently below detection limits,” the official told WAFB-TV. “The material released was feedstock used in making gasoline. We apologize for any concern this incident may have caused.”
Though the fire started in another area, the incident prompted ExxonMobil to shut down the refinery’s 210,000 barrel-per-day Crude Distillation Unit (CDU), Pipestill 10, for several hours. The unit was restarted Wednesday evening.
The company has not identified the specific unit where the fire broke out.
Four Workers Sustained Critical Burn Injuries in November 2016 ExxonMobil Refinery Explosion
The 502,500-barrel-per-day ExxonMobil Baton Rouge refinery was the site of an explosion last November that resulted in injuries to six workers, including four who suffered critical burns.
The November 22nd incident occurred in the refinery’s sulfuric-acid alkylation unit when operators performing maintenance attempted to open a plug valve. The valve came apart and released flammable hydrocarbons, which formed a vapor cloud that quickly ignited.
ExxonMobil was ultimately assessed $165,000 in fines following a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation into the explosion. The fines included a $12,675 penalty for each of 8 violations deemed serious, as well as a $63,000 penalty for the refinery’s failure to carry out external visual and ultrasonic inspections of the refinery’s piping.
The 9th violation drew a higher penalty because ExxonMobil had previously been cited for failing to conduct the same inspections at its refining and chemical plant complex in Baytown, Texas.
Final Report Blames Outdated Valve Design for 2016 ExxonMobil Refinery Explosion
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s investigation attributed the November 2016 ExxonMobil refinery explosion to an older, “ill-advised” valve design that allowed the release of about 2,000 pounds of pressurized isobutane.
The Board’s Final Report concluded that the explosion would have been prevented had the older valves been updated to a safer design, something that had already occurred in 97% of the unit’s valves.
“Our investigation found that these accepted practices were conducted without appropriate safety hazard analysis, needlessly injuring these workers,” CSB Chairperson Vanessa A. Sutherland said in a press release issued on September 18, 2017. “It is important to remember that good safety practices are good maintenance practices and good business practices.”
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