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Investigation update released into fatal 2022 explosion at BP refinery

20 June 2023

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has released an update into its ongoing investigation of the chemical release and fire at the BP-Husky Refinery located in Oregon, Ohio that resulted in two fatalities and substantial property damage to the facility in September 2022.

Image: CSB
Image: CSB

The update gives details about the investigation including a summary of the process upset that led to the incident, background on the refinery, and an outline of the CSB’s activities moving forward.

Chairperson Steve Owens said: “While the CSB’s investigation is still ongoing, we want to provide the public with important factual details surrounding this tragic incident as we know them now. Our investigation will use this and other information that we gather to make findings and recommendations to help prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.”

The CSB’s update details the events that occurred on 20 September 2022, including a timeline of key events:

- On September 20, 2022, at approximately 18:09, flammable liquid naphtha began to fill a Fuel Gas Mix Drum (“Mix Drum”) at the BP-Husky Toledo Refinery. The liquid overflowed from the normally vapor-only Mix Drum, sending naphtha through vapor piping to various boilers and furnaces in the refinery. Several of these boilers and furnaces started to emit highly visible plumes of smoke.

- To decrease the level in the Mix Drum, at approximately 18:17, liquid naphtha was sent to the refinery flare system and drained to an oily water sewer. Starting at approximately 18:32, naphtha from the Mix Drum was also drained directly to the ground creating a vapour cloud.

- At approximately 18:46, the vapour cloud of flammable naphtha that had formed on the ground reached an ignition source, which generated a large fire that fatally injured two employees and resulted in substantial property damage within the refinery.

Moving forward the CSB will analyse several key areas and how they may have applied to the incident including hierarchy of controls and existing regulations, industry standards, and guidance.

In March, it was announced that a federal investigation by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into the incident had found its operator, BP Products North America Inc., violated the department’s process safety procedures for highly hazardous materials and failed to adequately train the workers.

OSHA proposed $156,250 in penalties, an amount set by federal statutes, and cited the company for 10 serious violations, and one other-than-serious violation of process safety management procedures.

Read the CSB’s investigation update in full by clicking here.

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