Explosion at Tesoro Refinery in Pacific Northwest Kills Four

ANACORTES, Washington, April 2, 2010 (ENS) – An explosion and fire at the Tesoro oil refinery in Anacortes just after midnight Friday has claimed the lives of four employees and left three others critically injured.

Four injured employees were admitted to a Seattle hospital for treatment. One of the four, a 29-year-old woman, died of her burns at the hospital. Her name has not yet been released.

The three employees who died at the scene are Matthew C. Bowen, 31, of Arlington; Darrin J. Hoines, 43, of Ferndale; and Daniel J. Aldridge, 50, of Anacortes, according to the Skagit County coroner.

Tesoro’s refinery at Anacortes before the explosion and fire, March 19, 2010. (Photo by Greg Howell)

“This is a very sad time for our organization. Everyone in the Tesoro family appreciates the impact that this will have on the families involved, and we are responding quickly to ensure the safety for our employees, contractors and the neighboring community,” said Bruce Smith, Tesoro’s chairman, president and CEO.

The fire occurred at the naphtha unit while performing maintenance work and was contained at around 2 am local time, Tesoro said in a statement. Tesoro’s Emergency Incident Command has been activated to respond to this incident and the refinery units affected have been shut down and stabilized.

The explosion rattled nearby homes but there have been no other reports of off-site impacts related to the incident.

The Sheriff’s Department has been notified and personnel are on site responding.

A four-member investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board is en route to the scene. The team will be led by CSB Investigatons Supervisor Robert Hall, and CSB Board Member William Wark will accompany the team.

Currently, the board also is investigating an October 2009 flash fire at a Tesoro Refinery in Salt Lake City, Utah, that occurred when flammable liquid overfilled a flare stack and ignited.

CSB Chairman and CEO John Bresland said, “The CSB has 18 ongoing investigations. Of those, seven of these accidents occurred at refineries across the country. This is a significant and disturbing trend that the refining industry needs to address immediately.”

Chairman Bresland said the large-scale deployment to Washington State will further complicate CSB efforts to complete other important cases, including:

  • the Caribbean Petroleum fuel terminal fire near San Juan, Puerto Rico in October 2009
  • the Exxon Mobil refinery hydrogen fluoride release in Joliet, Illinois in August 2009
  • the CITGO refinery hydrogen fluoride release and fire in Corpus Christi, Texas in July 2009
  • the Goodyear heat exchanger rupture and ammonia release in Houston, Texas in June 2008

Tesoro said the company has notified the Washington Department of Labor and Industries and the local air district of the event.

In April 2009, the Department of Labor and Industries cited Tesoro’s Anacortes refinery for violations found as a result of a focused inspection aimed at reducing the likelihood of catastrophic events associated with petroleum refineries.

L&I cited Tesoro for 17 serious safety and health violations, with penalties totaling $85,700.

Tesoro was the third of Washington’s four large refineries to have a comprehensive inspection as part of a National Emphasis Program aimed at inspecting all refineries in the US. The national program began as a result of the 2005 explosion in Texas that killed 15 employees and injured 170.

San Antonio-based Tesoro Corporation, a Fortune 150 company, is an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products. Tesoro, through its subsidiaries, operates seven refineries in the western United States with a combined capacity of approximately 665,000 barrels per day.

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