CSB calls on EPA to update HF study in wake of the 2017 Husky refinery fire

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The US Chemical Safety Board released a letter  April 24 calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to review its existing Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) study to determine the effectiveness of existing regulations as well as the viability of utilizing inherently safer alkylation technologies in petroleum refineries.  CSB Interim Executive Kristen Kulinowski said, “In the last 4 years, the CSB has investigated two refinery incidents where an explosion elevated the threat of a release of HF.  Refinery workers and surrounding community residents are rightly concerned about the adequacy of the risk management for the use of hazardous chemicals like HF.  The EPA should review its 1993 HF study to ensure the health and safety of communities near petroleum refineries utilizing HF.”  HF is a highly toxic chemical that can seriously injure or cause death at a concentration of 30 parts per million (PPM), which is used in about fifty of the U.S.’s...
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Chemical Safety Board again targeted in Trump’s proposed budget

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The Trump administration’s budget proposal will again call for eliminating the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent federal agency that investigates major industrial accidents, according to Bloomberg News. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE
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This week marks 20th anniversary of deadly chemical plant blast in Pennsylvania

conceptscience The destroyed Concept Sciences building and damaged other buildings in the Hanover Township industrial park.
Twenty years ago this week a chemical plant explosion in Pennsylvania killed five and injured six, becoming one of the first major investigations conducted by the newly established U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The explosion occurred at Concept Sciences Inc., near Allentown, PA, on February 19, 1999. As a result of the explosion four Concept Sciences employees and the manager of an adjacent business were killed. Two Concept Sciences employees were injured, as were four people in nearby buildings. The explosion damaged ten buildings and several residences in the immediate area. The case study found that the explosion was most likely due to high concentration and temperature in a process vessel containing several hundred pounds of hydroxylamine, a potentially explosive chemical used in the manufacture of semiconductors. Concept Sciences' process safety management systems were insufficient to properly address the hazards inherent in its manufacturing process. The case study added...
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CSB releases final report on June 2016 Pascagoula gas plant explosion

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released its final report of the June 27, 2016, investigation of an explosion and fire at the Enterprise Products Pascagoula Gas Plant in Pascagoula, MS. The CSB determined that the probable cause was a phenomenon known as thermal fatigue.  The CSB also issued recommendations to two trade associations and local emergency responders.   The incident occurred late in the evening on June 27, 2016, when a major loss of containment in a heat exchanger resulted in the release of methane, ethane, propane, and several other hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbons ignited, initiating a series of fires and explosions, which ultimately shut down the site for almost six months.  CSB Interim Executive Kristen Kulinowski said, “More than 500 gas processing facilities operate across the country and the use of similar heat exchangers is common. Extending the life cycle of equipment at these facilities requires more robust inspection protocols.  Operators shouldn’t...
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Federal judge orders Chemical Safety Board to require disclosure of chemical emissions from accidents

4XOXJXBJSUI6TMAR3BIAMRG4TA A cloud of smoke appears after another explosion at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Tex., on Sept. 3, 2017. (John Taggart/For The Washington Post)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a lawsuit filed after Hurricane Harvey, a federal judge has ordered the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board to force the disclosure of chemical emissions resulting from accidents. More than 1,000 industrial chemical accidents take place every year. The biggest include the explosions that killed 15 people at a fertilizer plant in West, TX,  and the explosions that took place at the Arkema chemical plant in the Houston area after unprecedented flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE
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Chemical Safety Board preliminary report links refinery blasts in Wisconsin and California to cracking unit failures

A preliminary report released this week by the Chemical Safety Board blames recent refinery explosions in Superior, WI and Torrance, CA on the inadvertent mixing of hydrocarbons with air inside the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit that found an ignition source, resulting in an explosion.   On April 26, 2018, an explosion (Figure 1) and subsequent fire (Figure 2) occurred at the Superior Refinery Company LLC refinery in Superior, Wisconsin (“Husky Superior Refinery”).1 The incident occurred in the refinery’s Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU). As a result of the explosion, thirty-six people sought medical attention, including eleven refinery and contract workers who suffered OSHA recordable injuries. In addition, a portion of Superior,2 Wisconsin was evacuated. Evidence collected to date suggests similarities with a previous investigation of the February 18, 2015 explosion at a refinery in Torrance, CA.   On Wednesday, February 18, 2015, an explosion occurred in the ExxonMobil Torrance, California refinery’s...
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Dave's Notes: A captain named obvious

Working any kind of firefighting magic at an industrial conflagration requires one basic component – water. And, yet, as incontrovertible as that fact is, it is amazing how often responders have to scrape together major moisture on short notice at facilities where the need for water is as obvious as oranges are called oranges because they are orange. No, I am not referring to the 1989 Pasadena, TX, chemical plant explosion and fire. As much as I enjoy dwelling on that high point in my firefighting career the fire water system at Pasadena would have been up to the challenge had not the initial blast sheared off every available hydrant at ground level. I mean companies who do not even bother installing the hydrants. In 2002 a fire at a petroleum blending and packaging plant in Pearland, TX threatened nearly 1.2 million gallons of motor oil, hydraulic fluids and lubricants. Yet,...
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U.S. Chemical Safety Board teetering on brink of elimination

  On a warm morning in April, workers at a Wisconsin oil refinery were conducting a routine shutdown for maintenance. Suddenly, a gasoline cracking unit exploded, and the workers watched in horror as a huge fireball ripped through the plant. They ran for their lives, barely escaping the blast.   To read the entire article, CLICK HERE .  
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CSB releases update on probe into blowout and fire at Pryor Trust gas well in Pittsburg County, OK

    Oklahoma City, OK, August 16, 2018 - Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a factual update into its ongoing investigation of the January 22, 2018, blowout and fire at the Pryor Trust Gas Well located in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, that killed five workers.     The CSB has determined the incident occurred shortly after drilling crew members removed the drill pipe from the well in a process known as “tripping.” To date, the CSB’s investigation has determined the following timeline related to the blowout and fire:   •    January 21, 2018: Crew members from the Patterson-UTI Drilling Company had been drilling a gas well for over a week. Activities were being overseen by the operator of the well, Red Mountain Operating, LLC (or RMO) in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. •    At 3:36 pm, the Patterson crew stopped drilling to remove the drill pipe from the well and change...
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CSB releases factual update on April explosion and fire at Wisconsin refinery

  Superior, Wisconsin, August 2, 2018: Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a factual update into its ongoing investigation of the April 26, 2018, explosion and subsequent fires at the Husky Superior Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. The initial explosion occurred in the refinery’s Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) at approximately 10:00 am while the refinery was shutting down the FCCU for periodic maintenance and inspection. To date the CSB has determined the following: The explosion took place during a planned maintenance shutdown of the refinery FCCU. The incident occurred during a scheduled break time and many workers previously in the unit before the explosion had moved either into blast resistant buildings or away from the process unit. One piece of debris from the explosion flew about 200 feet, and struck a large, nearby, aboveground storage tank containing about 50,000 barrels of asphalt. The side of the tank was punctured,...
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CSB: "Significant lack of planning for flooding" cited in final report into August 2017 Arkema chemical plant fire near Houston

  Houston, TX, May 24, 2018: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final investigation report into the August 31, 2017, fire at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. In the days leading up to the incident, an unprecedented amount of rain fell at the plant due to Hurricane Harvey, causing equipment to flood and fail. As a result, chemicals stored at the plant decomposed and burned, releasing fumes and smoke into the air.    CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Our investigation found that there is a significant lack of guidance in planning for flooding or other severe weather events. Based on other government reports, we know that there is a greater likelihood of more severe weather across the country. As we prepare for this year’s hurricane season, it is critical that industry better understand the safety hazards posed by extreme weather events.”    The Arkema chemical plant...
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CSB chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland announces resignation

  Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland announced today that she will be stepping down and resigning from the position of Chair and Board Member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board next month. Chair Sutherland released the following statement:   “I am saddened to leave the wonderful mission and incredible work of the CSB. This mission is unique and critically important because we are the only agency conducting independent, comprehensive root cause chemical incident investigations.  As we continue to recognize the agency’s 20th anniversary of operations, we still have much work to do to achieve our vision of a nation safe from chemical disasters. And I️ am absolutely certain that this team, and future hires, will both excel in execution and outshine our prior efforts.  I’m fortunate to have been a part of the work.”   The board members will be required to vote on an interim executive, unless and...
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CSB investigators deploying to specialty chemical plant blast in Pasadena, TX

A four-person investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to an incident that reportedly injured 21 workers at the Kuraray America facility in Pasadena, Texas on Saturday morning. The facility manufactures ethylene vinyl-alcohol copolymers, sold as EVALTM. Kuraray America is a Tokyo-based specialty chemical manufacturer.   A press release issued by Kuraray states that at the time of the incident, 266 employees and contract personnel were onsite as part of a turnaround with heavy maintenance activities. All have been accounted for. Twenty-one individuals were transported to off-site medical facilities for treatment.   Preliminary findings indicate a pressure safety valve released ethylene causing a flash fire in one of our process units. The company continues to work with authorities to complete the investigation. The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical incidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by...
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CSB releases final report into 2017 explosion at Louisiana pulp and paper mill

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released its final investigation report into the February 8, 2017, explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America’s (PCA’s) DeRidder, Louisiana, pulp and paper mill. The incident killed three contract workers that were performing welding and grinding, referred to as “hot work,” above a tank that contained flammable materials. Seven others were injured.    CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “As seen in this incident, hot work conducted around tanks containing flammable materials can be catastrophic. That is why it is so important for companies to effectively identify, evaluate, and control potential hazards prior to initiation of hot work.”   The explosion at PCA occurred during the facility’s annual shutdown. On the day of the incident, contract workers were welding on water piping above and disconnected from a 100,000-gallon-capacity storage tank. The tank contained about ten feet of liquid, called “foul condensate.” The foul condensate...
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CSB investigators deploy to probe explosion at oil refinery in Wisconsin

A four-person investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to the scene of an incident that reportedly injured multiple workers this morning at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, WI. The refinery was shutting down in preparation for a five-week turnaround when an explosion was reported around 10 a.m. CDT April 26th. According to initial reports, several people were transported to area hospitals with injuries. There have been no reports of fatalities. Residents and area schools near the refinery were asked to evacuate due to heavy smoke. The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical incidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The Board does not...
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CSB releases final report into 2016 refinery fire that seriously injured four workers

September 18, 2017, Washington, D.C.  - At a public business meeting in Washington, DC, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a safety bulletin on the November 22, 2016 fire that severely burned four workers at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.   The fire occurred during maintenance activities when operators inadvertently removed bolts that secured a piece of pressure-containing equipment to a plug valve. When the operators attempted to open the plug valve, the valve came apart and released flammable hydrocarbons, which formed a vapor cloud that quickly ignited.   Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Our investigation found that these accepted practices were conducted without appropriate safety hazard analysis, needlessly injuring these workers. It is important to remember that good safety practices are good maintenance practices and good business practices.”   A key safety lesson discussed in the bulletin is the “hierarchy of controls.” This is a method of evaluating...
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CSB releases investigative update into catastrophic pressure vessel failure that killed 4

May 25, 2017, St. Louis, MO – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a “Factual Investigative Update” on the April 3, 2017, catastrophic rupture of a pressure vessel at the Loy Lange Box Company that killed four people and left another in critical condition.    The CSB’s ongoing examination of the incident has identified a history of leaks in the pressure vessel, which was part of a steam generation system. In 2012, the vessel was repaired when it was discovered that water was leaking from the bottom of its tank. In what was termed an “emergency repair,” a portion of the bottom of the tank was replaced with a custom made center section.    On Friday, March 31, 2017, employees again noticed a leak from the bottom of the vessel. Photos taken by the employees revealed leaks coming from at least two distinct sections of a 6-inch ring of original...
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CSB releases safety bulletin on 2015 chemical release and flash fire at Delaware factory

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its findings and a safety bulletin entitled "Key Lessons for Preventing Incidents when Preparing Process Equipment for Maintenance" resulting from a hydrocarbon release and fire that injured one worker at the Delaware City Refining Company in Delaware City, DE. CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, "More than a third of the incidents investigated by the CSB occurred during maintenance activities, ultimately resulting in 86 fatalities and 410 injuries." On November 29, 2015, alkylation unit operators at the Delaware City Refining Company, or DCRC, were preparing equipment for maintenance. Prior to performing the work, operators had to first drain and isolate a section of piping scheduled to be replaced by closing valves to block the flow of hydrocarbons into the piping. However, the operators learned that a valve on one side of the pipe isolation was leaking and therefore would not seal properly, which led...
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CSB issues final report on Feb. 2015 refinery explosion in Torrance, CA

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final report into the February 18, 2015, explosion at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California. The blast caused serious property damage to the refinery and scattered catalyst dust up to a mile away from the facility into the nearby community. The incident caused the refinery to be run at limited capacity for over a year, raising gas prices in California and costing drivers in the state an estimated $2.4 billion.   The explosion occurred in the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit, where a variety of products, mainly gasoline, are produced. A reaction between hydrocarbons and catalyst takes place in what is known as the “hydrocarbon side” of the FCC unit. The remainder of the FCC unit is comprised of a portion of the reaction process and a series of pollution control equipment that uses air and is known as the “air side”...
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CSB investigators deploying to fatal explosion at a Missouri box plant

April 6, 2117 - A three-person investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to the scene of an incident that killed three people and injured four others on April 3 at a box plant in St. Louis, MO.   According to initial reports, the incident took place when a boiler exploded at the plant, where one worker was killed. The force of the explosion launched the boiler into the air where it flew approximately 500 feet before landing on a nearby laundry facility, killing two members of the public.   CSB Chairperson Vanessa Sutherland said, “The CSB’s mission is to investigate and issue recommendations that promote safety at industrial facilities as well as for nearby communities.  As a result of Monday’s explosion, our team will be examining what if any safeguards were in place to protect the workers at the Loy-Lange Box Company, as well as for...
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