BP officials announce preliminary cause of refinery fire

Published on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The failure of a crude oil distilling unit at the BP Cherry Point Refinery caused an oil refining byproduct to be exposed to air and catch fire, sending the entire unit up in flames, the manager of the refinery has announced.

In a press release, refinery manager Mike Abendhoff said initial inspections of the crude vacuum unit that went up in flames two weeks ago revealed a substance called resid, an oil product produced early in the refining process, was inadvertently released. The substance caught fire when it was exposed to air and set off a blaze that would burn for about an hour on the afternoon of February 17. The crude vacuum unit is one of the first steps in the oil refining process.

Abendhoff said investigators from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries have identified the vacuum unit failure as the start of the fire, but still have yet to determine how the unit failed in the first place. Abendhoff said BP officials will tell the public what caused the unit to fail once further investigations are completed.

The refinery, which can process about 230,000 barrels of crude oil per day, is predominantly shut down for the time being. Click here to see my previous story on the fire.

Thanks to the Birch Bay Buzz blog for posting the BP Cherry Point press release.


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