February, 2007

This is a repeating event

200716FebAll DayValero (Sunray) Refinery Fire 2007Valero Sunray (US-TX) Origin: CSB Lessons:Compliance with Standards,Management of Change,Risk AssessmentIndustry:RefiningCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Undertemperature

Summary

At 2:09 p.m. on Friday, February 16, 2007, liquid propane under high pressure was released in the Propane De-Asphalting (PDA) unit of Valero’s McKee Refinery, 50 miles north of Amarillo in the Texas panhandle, near the town of Sunray. The resulting propane vapor cloud found an ignition source, and the subsequent fire injured workers, damaged unit piping and equipment, and collapsed a major piperack. The fire grew rapidly and threatened surrounding units, including a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage area. Fire-fighting efforts were hampered by high and shifting winds and the rapid spread of the fire. A refinery-wide evacuation was ordered approximately 15 minutes after the fire ignited.

Three of the four workers injured were seriously burned, including a contractor. The refinery was completely shut down for just under two months and operated at reduced capacity for nearly a year.

KEY ISSUES:
• FREEZE PROTECTION OF DEAD-LEGS
• EMERGENCY ISOLATION OF EQUIPMENT
• FIREPROOFING OF SUPPORT STEEL
• FIRE PROTECTION FOR HIGH PRESSURE LPG SERVICE
• CHLORINE RELEASE

ROOT CAUSES:
1. The McKee Refinery had no formal written program in place to identify, review, and freeze-protect dead-legs or infrequently used piping and equipment, such as the propane mix control station.
2. The McKee Refinery did not apply Valero’s mandatory Emergency Isolation Valve procedure when evaluating risks in the PDA unit to ensure that the large quantities of flammable materials in the unit could be rapidly isolated in an emergency.
3. API guidance and Valero’s corporate Fire Proofing Specifications standard do not specify sufficiently protective distances for fireproofing pipe rack support steel for processes handling high-pressure flammables, such as the LPG in the PDA unit.


Image credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

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