A toxic explosion last month at an oil refinery in Washington State killed five workers and critically injured two others. The blast, which occurred at the Tesoro Corp. oil refinery located north of Seattle, was the deadliest refinery blast in five years. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates large industrial accidents, is currently investigating the incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also will be involved in the investigation. Last April, state environmental regulators fined the Anacortes refinery $85,700 for 17 serious safety and health violations that could lead to death or serious physical injury.
As has been reported, there have been a number of other refinery explosions. This latest accident comes as a probe continues into an October fire at Tesoro’s Salt Lake City refinery. Fortunately, no one was injured in that incident, which temporarily shut down a portion of an interstate and damaged equipment and several trailers. Another company, BP, continues to deal with legislation and other legal issues relating to the March 23, 2005, incident at Texas City. That refinery only returned to full operation last summer. BP has been fined at least $150 million by federal agencies as a result of that incident.
Tesoro shut down one area of the Anacortes plant, near the blast site at a unit that makes naphtha, a key gasoline component. At the time of the explosion, all of the employees killed or injured in the blast were putting a unit back in service after a maintenance project. Many refinery accidents happen during the restart or shutdown of units. Tesoro has seven refineries in the western part of the country, with a combined capacity of about 665,000 barrels a day. The company’s Anacortes plant is the third-largest of four major refineries in the area.
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