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Dislodged Valve Triggered Fire at Refinery

Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:51am
the Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A San Antonio refinery caught fire for the second time in two years Wednesday, forcing about 60 workers to evacuate the plant after the company said a dislodged valve ignited the blaze.

No injuries were reported. Authorities initially said the call came in as an explosion, but refinery operator NuStar Energy LP said there had only been a fire at its plant.

NuStar Energy spokeswoman Mary Rose Brown said the fire started when a contractor installing some tubing dislodged a valve within the facility's crude unit. Brown said that caused the release of a small amount of kerosene, which then vaporized and ignited.

Brown said the facility's crude unit immediately shut down during the incident. She said it didn't appear the refinery sustained significant damage, though the company did not yet know when the plant would start back up.

The same refinery caught fire in May 2010 under ownership of a different company. One man in that fire was critically burned after an 18-wheeler being loaded with fuel exploded, setting off a chain reaction of smaller explosions.

Other employees received minor injuries in that blaze and residents within a half-mile of the facility were evacuated. The plant at the time was run by AGE Refining Inc., a small refinery that had filed for bankruptcy a few months earlier.

NuStar Energy purchased the facility in April. Brown said the company has invested "tens of millions of dollars" in improvements since then, including additional firefighting equipment and training.

 

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