OR: Refinery fire cause sought

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Refinery fire cause sought

March 8, 2000


Officials of Sunoco MidAmerica Marketing & Refining and U.S. Filter continued an investigation yesterday into a fire and explosions that occurred Monday at Sunoco's Oregon refinery but released few new details. Olivia Summons, the public affairs director for Sunoco MidAmerica, said the accident occurred in a vessel known as an "API separator" that is the first stage in recovering petroleum from wastewater at the refinery. While commonly referred to as an "oil pit," the vessel has a fiberglass cover and is completely sealed during normal operations, she said.

Investigators are trying to determine the source of ignition in the separator, which is about the size of a municipal swimming pool, Ms. Summons said.

Sunoco sold the wastewater treatment systems at the refinery to U.S. Filter two years ago.

Ms. Summons said duplicate facilities exist so the accident at one of them does not impede refinery operations. Scott Edwards, a U.S. Filter spokesman, agreed and said the accident had not caused any illegal waste discharges.

An assessment of damage from the accident likely will take at least several days to complete, Mr. Edwards said.

The Oregon fire department is not participating in the investigation but will receive a report when it is finished, Assistant Fire Chief Bill Flanagan said. While the blaze was the fourth fire at the Sunoco refinery since August, Chief Flanagan said he isn't concerned.

"It's just the nature of the beast - the type of industry," he said, observing that refineries work with highly flammable materials under extreme temperatures and pressures.

Source: The Toledo Blade


-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), March 09, 2000

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