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Report sheds light on 2009 Silver Eagle refinery explosion
by MELINDA WILLIAMS
Apr 17, 2014 | 2147 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Silver Eagle refinery explosion - Courtesy photo
Silver Eagle refinery explosion - Courtesy photo
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WOODS CROSS - Silver Eagle Refining officials expect the Chemical Safety Board still has one last report to release on the Nov. 4, 2009 explosion that ripped through the refinery and devastated the nearby community, but they are looking forward and planning for the future.

Four and a half years after the massive explosion, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a report last week, saying the explosion was caused by a rupture in a pipe that had become dangerously thin from corrosion.

The CSB released the metallurgical report on Thursday that was commissioned in the course of the ongoing investigation into the tragedy.

In the years since the accident, Silver Eagle has instituted a number of safety measures and replaced failing equipment.

“We’re focused on moving forward,” Jerry Lockie, Silver Eagle general manager, said on Friday.

“We’ve been given a clean bill of health,” Lockie said. “We’ve inspected the reactors and the pipes are all at 100 percent. Our inspections on the reactors go above and beyond what is required by the regulatory agencies.”

Lockie said the company was in contact with the CSB monthly for six months after the explosion.

In addition to equipment upgrades, the company’s merger with the International Group Inc., in 2011, changed the focus of the operation to a much less volatile process that requires fewer units to operate.

IGI develops and manufactures waxed-based products used in nearly every aspect of life from the packaging of cosmetics to application on fresh fruits and vegetables.

The CSB report didn’t vary much from the initial observations. It said the catastrophic rupture occurred in a 10-inch pipe at the bottom of a reactor in the mobile distillate dewaxing unit. That led to a massive release of hydrogen, which caught fire immediately and exploded. The resulting blast wave damaged over 100 homes, many with shattered glass.

The Texas-based company that conducted the report said there was record of the ruptured pipe having ever been inspected

“This is the same syndrome we found in the Bay Area Chevron refinery fire of 2012 and the Tesoro refinery explosion and fire that killed seven in Anacortes, Washington, in 2010,’ said CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso.

That syndrome includes thinning pipe walls and sulfidation corrosion ‘ “the same kind ... that we found  in the Chevron accident, according to CSB lead Investigator, Dan Tillema.

“Fortunately, there were no fatalities resulting from the explosion and it was only by chance no one was in the immediate area. But many lives were disrupted as residents in Woods Cross, just north of Salt Lake City, had to move out of homes pending repairs,” said  Moure-Eraso, in the report.

There were four workers near the processing unit at the time of the explosion. They were blown to the ground,but none were seriously injured. Another worker had been taking readings next to the pipe that failed just moments before the release.

It was also noted in a press conference held days after the Nov. 4, 2009 blast that a FrontRunner train had passed through the areas moments after the blast.

“Clearly, this explosion had the potential to cause deaths or serious injuries had it occurred even a few moments earlier or later in the day,” Don Holstrom who was the CSB Investigations supervisor at the time, said.

Upon releasing the report on Thursday, Moure-Eraso said the CSB had to delay completion of the report due to a series of accidents in the oil production and refining sector.

Shortly after the explosion, Silver Eagle officials instituted a “safety moment,” held prior to every meeting. That practice continues today.

 

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