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Valero Texas City refinery hit by explosion, fire

20 April 2018

An explosion on April 19 at Valero Energy Corp's Texas City refinery caused no injuries but the resulting fire left a pall of thick smoke over the area, which is 45 miles south of Houston. The blast took place in the plant’s depropanizer tower, which isolates propane from heavier hydrocarbon components.

Valero Texas City refinery - Image: Valero
Valero Texas City refinery - Image: Valero

Workers at the Valero and Marathon refineries, adjacent to each other on the south side of Texas City, were told to shelter-in-place. The explosion was heard five miles from the 260,000 barrel per day capacity refinery and rocked buildings within a mile of the plant, according to local media.

Firefighting units from Texas City and the Marathon refinery joined Valero staff in fighting the fire, which was brought under control after two hours.

Valero spokeswoman Lillian Riojas said the company was cooperating with local, state and federal agencies in responding to the fire. “At this time, Valero has very little information as to the cause of the fire,” Riojas said.

US Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigation staff are on site, according to Reuters.

Texas City was the site of the deadliest industrial explosion in US history when on April 16, 1947, a ship carrying more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up, setting off blasts on other ships and nearby oil storage tanks and killing 581 people.

The deadliest US refinery explosion in the 21st Century took place on March 23, 2005, at the BP Texas City refinery killing 15 workers and injuring 180 people. The refinery was sold by BP to Marathon in 2013.


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