One seriously injured in Wisconsin refinery blast

Article by Adam Duckett

AN explosion at a Husky Energy-owned oil refinery in the US has reportedly injured at least 15 people, with one seriously hurt.

The 50,000 bbl/d refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, was shutting down in preparation for a five-week turnaround, when an explosion was reported yesterday at 10:00 local time. There are no deaths reported, and all workers have been accounted for. The seriously hurt worker suffered what has been described as a blast injury.

Authorities ordered an evacuation of a 5 km radius around the site as well as a 16 km corridor to the south of where the smoke was drifting, affecting homes, schools and a hospital, The Washington Post reports.

Husky Energy has not commented on the cause of the incident but local press reports that a tank of crude oil or asphalt exploded, sending a plume of smoke over the area. After an initial blaze, a storage tank was punctured, and a second fire erupted, Husky Energy spokesman Mel Duvall said.

Local press have reported that the initial blaze was put out by 11:20 am but after a series of follow-on blasts it took until 18:45 to declare the fires onsite fully extinguished.

“The emergency situation at the refinery is now over, and our focus in the days ahead will turn to the investigation and understanding the root cause of the incident,” said CEO Rob Peabody. “Our thoughts are with those who were injured, and their families.”

The US Chemical Safety Board has deployed a four-person team to investigate the incident.

Husky Energy bought the refinery from Calumet Specialty Products Partners last year for US$435m. The facility processes light and heavy crude oil into asphalt, gasoline, diesel and heavy fuel oils.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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