This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

US refinery blast fuels supply shortfall scares

27 May 2009

The fireball from a blast at Sunoco's Marcus Hook facility lit up the night in the US northeast's night sky last week as fire appliances attended the area's second largest oil processing facility by spraying down flames shooting high into the air.

US refinery blast fuels supply shortfall scares
US refinery blast fuels supply shortfall scares

The complex straddles the Delaware/Pennsylvania border but the explosion occurred on the Delaware side in Claymont around 10:15 pm on Sunday May 17th. Intense flames, fuelled by ethylene, burned all through the night and into Monday morning. At one point, up to 50 fire fighters from Delaware and Pennsylvania were at the scene. The fire was under control at midday Monday and extinguished later that evening allowing investigators to access the troubled area to establish the cause of the blast. All workers at the plant have been accounted for.

Authorities and company officials said no injuries were reported and no evacuations of surrounding neighbourhoods were ordered and there was no concern for the residents in the immediate area. However, some people who live near the refinery didn't take any chances. Many reported smelling a strange odour. Some complained of headaches but there were no reports of injuries and no evacuations but some neighbours left on their own accord as a precaution.

Sunoco investigators were on site the next day with the Delaware state fire marshal. It appears that they alone will determine what caused the explosion, which occurred at the refinery's ethylene unit.

In production terms, the Marcus Hook complex ranks 39 out of the USA's 150 operating refineries, based on US Department of Energy figures. The blast hit a downstream unit that produces feedstocks for the production of plastics. The refinery's management would not comment on whether gasoline production had been affected.

Energy experts suggest that there is a plentiful supply of gasoline in the US because Americans are driving much less during the recession. However fears of production shortfalls caused gasoline futures to shoot to a seven-month high in the New York Mercantile Exchange on the Monday after the incident. Sunoco's Marcus Hook refinery processes around 180,000 barrels of sweet crude oil a day. That accounts for about one percent of the nation's daily production, according to Sunoco's Web site. The company wouldn't say how much production has been affected but did say it plans to increase output at its Philadelphia and Eagle Point, N.J. plants to compensate.

The Sunoco facility is located on approximately 788 acres along the Delaware River in Marcus Hook, PA. The frontage extends approximately 4,800 feet along the northern banks of the Delaware River. The Facility is bordered by industrial land use and commercial/residential properties. The refinery is generally divided into two types of areas: refining and processing activities and crude oil and product storage. Utilisation of the refinery has a long history of petroleum transportation, storage, and processing. The refinery employs around 700 people and opened in 1902.

Print this page | E-mail this page