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Ten injured in Canandian refinery explosion

12 October 2011

An explosion and fire that occurred last week at a crude oil refinery in the central Canadian province of Saskatchewan has injured 10 people. Eight were taken to hospital to be treated for burns, whilst two were treated at the site. At the time of the explosion at Consumers' Co-operative Refineries Ltd. (CCRL), located in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, between 400 and 450 refinery employees and around 1,000 contractors were working in the area.

A  massive explosion at the Consumers’ Co-operative Refinery in Regina sent eight people to hospital. Photograph by: Troy Fleece, Regina Leader-Post
A massive explosion at the Consumers’ Co-operative Refinery in Regina sent eight people to hospital. Photograph by: Troy Fleece, Regina Leader-Post

An unnamed foreman for Chemco electrical contractors, who had 250 employees on site, described the incident. "The explosion went up about 250 feet in the air - it was a huge fireball. I notified everybody by radio that there was a big explosion on the unit. Your biggest fear is that you won't get everybody out safely."

Cameron Keller, an insulator with Fulleraustin, a subcontractor for CCRL, was working near the site of the explosion when he heard popping sounds. "It sounded like a cap popping off a beer bottle and then all of a sudden there was tons of black smoke and big waves of fire going straight up. The alarms went off and we all ran out. We were two plants away and we didn't feel the heat, but we had some guys in Unit 11 and they felt the heat right above them."

CCRL is in the middle of a $1.9-billion expansion project, the biggest project in the refinery's history and what is believed to be the largest-ever project in Regina. The expansion will increase the refinery's capacity from 100,000 barrels a day to 130,000 when it is completed in 2012. It is expected that capacity could be further increased by 15,000 barrels per day by 2016.

However, the explosion occurred in an older area of the refinery, which is being revamped. Gilbert Le Dressay, the refinery's manager of safety, environment and training and the incident commander, commented: "This is an area where we're replacing equipment, but this equipment is still monitored and repaired as normal.” Le Dressay added that gas detection monitors in the affected area prompted the alarm system, meaning that personnel were immediately evacuated.

It is understood that the explosion occurred in a unit that was involved in processing diesel fuel. A leak in a high-pressure pipe carrying diesel and hydrogen caused the release of diesel fuel and hydrogen gas, which ignited.

Investigators are still looking into the biggest explosion and fire at the plant since August 1990.

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