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Silver Eagle Refinery Shut Down After Explosion

Nov 23, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

We’ve been following dangerous events at the Silver Eagle Refinery in Wood Cross, Utah. Last month, a second serious accident took place at the facility this year when a “catastrophic failure” of a 10-inch pipe that contained more than 600-pounds of pressurized hydrogen caused an explosion. In January, another incident seriously injured four people at the refinery.

Now, the Oil and Gas Journal is reporting that the Silver Eagle Refinery has, at the suggestion of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and state officials, shut down its Woods Cross Refinery. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, investigators with the CSB discovered what were described as “widespread safety problems” after the blast last month at the plant’s diesel unit.

John S. Bresland. Chairman at CSB, made the request for the refinery to shut down on November 13 saying that, "The CSB team has developed a number of serious concerns about the integrity of the piping and equipment at various locations in the plant," quoted the Oil and Gas Journal. Bresland said the request is for a temporary shutdown to allow the refinery time to correct the “potentially serious safety problems, said the Oil and Gas Journal. “This decision will obviously cost Silver Eagle some revenue in the short run, but I believe it is the right action to protect the long term interests of the company, its workforce, and the community which gives it license to operate,” Bresland said.

The November blast sparked a fire at the 10,250 barrel-per-day refinery that burned until later that day. The blast created a huge fireball, which sent flames as high as 100 feet in the air. At least 10 homes sustained damage, and some were knocked off their foundations from the force of the explosion. Other damage to property included smashed windows, bent garage doors, and peeled siding.

On January 12, a large vapor cloud that was released from a petroleum storage tank ignited, causing a massive flash fire. The storage tank continued to burn for a number of hours, leading to widespread evacuations in Woods Cross. Two refinery operators and two contractors, who were standing in a shed more than 230-feet from the tank, were engulfed by the flame front and suffered serious burns. That fire remains under investigation.

A current inspection report from the OSHA Web site lists four “serious” violations related to the January fire. In 2005, OSHA cited the facility for 10 “serious” violations in 2005, and assigned a “gravity” rating of 10 to one, meaning it carried the highest possible risk to workers’ safety. Silver Eagle also received two other “serious” violations in 2004, and one in 2002. OSHA records indicated that since April 2002, the facility has been cited for 23 violations overall.

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