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$300,000 in fines after refinery fire

Author : J GALE

08 March 2011

A refinery in Texas has been fined more than $300,000 after an improperly handled release of chemicals resulted in a serious fire that severely injured one worker.

Citgo was handed down the fine by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for various breaches of state environmental and health and safety regulations at its Corpus Christi refinery. The company was also cited for not being able to keep firefighting run off water from entering the local ship channel.
On 19 July 2009, hydrocarbons and hydrogen fluoride were suddenly released from the refinery’s HF alkylation unit. The hydrocarbons ignited, leading to a fire that burned for several days.
Investigators from the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) determined that a blockage of liquid caused by the sudden failure of a control valve led to violent shaking inside the process recycle piping. The shaking broke threaded pipe connections resulting in the release of hydrocarbons. The cloud of hydrocarbons reached an adjacent unit and ignited.
The ensuing fire caused many additional fires and the release of approximately 42,000 pounds of hydrogen fluoride from equipment and piping within the unit.
The CSB also released video of the initial pipe failure, release, ignition, and fire as captured by two refinery surveillance cameras. [Watch video of the fire]
The violations by Citgo included: failure to prevent unauthorised air emissions; failure to meet the permitted limit for fluoride discharge; failure to prevent an unauthorised discharge of wastewater; failure to obtain authorisation from the Commission before starting an activity which resulted in non-compliance of Citgo’s wastewater permit; and failure to prevent the unauthorised discharge of process wastewater.
Around half of the $303,294 penalty will be used to fund a local environmental clean-up project.


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