Tesoro Refinery Fire Started with Vapor CloudApr 6, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
Investigators are no longer characterizing last Friday’s deadly fire at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash. as an explosion. Instead, they say a vapor cloud of hydrocarbons ignited, creating a large fireball.
The Tesoro refinery, which sets on Puget Sound, is located about 70 miles north of Seattle. According to the Tesoro Web site, it has the capacity to refine about 120,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
The accident, which killed five workers, is the worst accident at a U.S. refinery in five years.In addition to the fatalities, two other workers were injured in the blaze. They are being treated for serious burns at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. One of the injured workers remains in critical condition, while the other has been upgraded to serious.
On Saturday, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) began investigating the accident, which started in the catalytic reformer naptha hydrotreater unit of the complex while 10 workers were performing maintenance work in the area. The CSB is an independent federal agency that investigates major industrial accidents.
Lead investigator Robert Hall said yesterday that although people living in Anacortes reported feeling their windows shake, there is no significant blast damage at the site. The area where the accident occurred extensively burned, but had a relatively small footprint, Hall said.
The (CSB) investigation is expected to take about 18 months to complete, Hall said