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COP Billings trying find cause Xmas Tank fire

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Charles Randall 12 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #2826

    basil parmesan
    Participant

    Refinery trying to find cause of tank fire
    CLAIR JOHNSON Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Monday, December 28, 2009
     
    An investigation is under way into what caused a storage tank at the Billings ConocoPhillips Refinery to catch fire and send thick black smoke over south Billings on Christmas Eve.
    Jim Hughes, an environmental specialist with the Department of Environmental Quality, said a company representative reported Monday that the company still doesn’t know what ignited a fire at a tank that holds asphalt and pitch as feed stock for its coker. The coker processes heavier crude oil and products into lighter materials, such as gasoline and diesel.
    The company has a week to file a report with DEQ and will be reporting estimated emissions from the smoke, Hughes said.
    Refinery operations continued at normal rates through out the entire event. No one was injured.
    “We have a team doing a thorough investigation,” Bill Stephens, a ConocoPhillips spokesman in Houston, said Monday. “It’s going to take a little while.”
     
    Team members
     
    The team includes local refinery and corporate officials, and its investigation could take weeks, Stephens said.
    “We’ll learn from that and take steps to prevent those kinds of things from happening in the future,” Stephens said.
    He would not speculate on possible causes.
    “The good news is we were able to put it out in a pretty professional manner without anybody getting hurt,” he said.
    The fire began about 3:20 p.m. and was extinguished by 5:50 p.m. by refinery firefighters, who were assisted by the Billings Fire Department as part of a mutual-aid agreement.
    Fire crews from both the CHS refinery in Laurel and the ExxonMobil refinery in Lockwood also assisted under a mutual-aid pact, Stephens said.
    “We really appreciated the great coordination here,” he said.
    The blaze was contained to the tank, which was left collapsed and crumpled around its rim.
    “Nothing leaked out of the tank,” Hughes said.
     
    No issues
     
    And none of the material got into the ground or into the groundwater.
    “There shouldn’t be any issues with surface water,” he said.
    ConocoPhillips’ waste water treatment system handled all of the water and foam used to extinguish the flames.
    The tank’s capacity is about 97,000 barrels, or 4 million gallons, and contained less than 5 feet of material, Hughes said. He estimated the tank was less than a quarter full.
    The refinery was drawing down the material to take the insulated and heated tank out of service when the fire occurred, Hughes said.
    At room temperature, the asphalt-pitch material is a solid. To move it, the material is heated to a few hundred degrees, Hughes said. When exposed to cold weather, the material solidifies.
    “Typically, that stuff isn’t that volatile,” Hughes said.
    The fire sent up an impressive plume of smoke visible for miles. “The high carbon material is why we saw so much of the black smoke,” Hughes said.
    A northeast wind carried the plume over south Billings, generally up the Yellowstone River Valley and south of Laurel.
    “The plume was fairly aloft. It got up pretty high,” Hughes said.
    A sulfur dioxide air monitor near the CHS refinery in Laurel recorded low concentrations of the pollutant during the episode, Hughes said.
    ConocoPhillips received an odor complaint from the U.S. Postal Service at 841 S. 26th St. and calls about soot fallout on the South Side, Hughes said. Billings residents may have noticed a faint kerosenelike odor.
    The refinery called his office three times Christmas Eve to report the fire and to keep him apprised, Hughes said.
    Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

  • #5774

    Charles Randall
    Participant

    FYI – good shot of Billings coker in background near tank fire.
    (Picture & Viedo – Source: http://www.kulr8.com/news/local/84422917.html  watch out for all popups advertisements)
    Regards
    Charlie Randall
    ————
    Refinery Fire Details Withheld


    By Kyle Midura

    Story Published: Feb 15, 2010 at 7:45 PM MST

    BILLINGS – An internal investigation into the massive Christmas Eve fire at the Conoco-Phillips refinery in Billings has been completed. But, the company said it will not share any details with the public.
    Conoco Spokesman Bill Stephens said the investigation produced some valuable lessons and the company has made adjustments to prevent similar incidents from happening again. The explosion and fire caused the roof of a tank containing asphalt to collapse and the walls to buckle.
    The fire started around 3:30 p.m. on December 24th. Billings fire officials and local refinery crews were able to contain the spectacular blaze.
    The company said it monitored air quality throughout the fire and there was no public health risk. No one was injured during the blaze.

  • #5766

    Charles Randall
    Participant

    ConocoPhillips identifies cause of Christmas Eve refinery fire in Billings
    By CLAIR JOHNSON Billings Gazette | Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010 12:00 am

    BILLINGS A fire at the ConocoPhillips refinery that spewed thick black smoke into the air on Christmas Eve was caused when a heater inside the tank ignited oil vapors, a company official said Friday.
    The fire destroyed a tank that held asphalt and pitch, which is feed stock for the refinerys coker. The coker processes heavier crude oil products into lighter materials such as gasoline and diesel.
    Clint Young, a refinery spokesman, said the companys investigation found that while oil was being removed from the tank, the product level fell below a heater inside the tank.
    That caused the heater to increase in temperature and ignite vapors inside the tank, Young said in an e-mail to The Gazette.
    No one was injured during the fire, which began about 3:20 p.m. and burned for about 2 hours. The blaze was contained to the tank, which was left collapsed.
    We are implementing operational changes to prevent fires from occurring when we remove products from tanks in the future, he said.
    The company followed its plan to communicate with employees, neighbors, public officials and nearby businesses, Young said.
    We apologize to any of our near neighbors who we did not reach through these efforts, he said. We certainly regret that and any other inconveniences resulting from the fire.
    Also Friday, Assistant City Administrator Bruce McCandless sent an e-mail to the mayor and council members with a similar explanation of the fire after a citizen had contacted them Thursday for information.
    While the Billings Fire Department responded, it did not investigate the fire and so could not disclose any additional information, McCandless said. The Fire Department responded as part of a mutual-aid agreement.
    A refinery representative Friday offered to present the results of the investigation to the council at a future meeting, McCandless said.
    No one was injured during the fire, which began about 3:20 p.m. and burned for about 2 hours. The blaze was contained to the tank, which was left collapsed.
    Fire crews from the CHS refinery in Laurel and ExxonMobil refinery in Lockwood also assisted ConocoPhillips firefighters.
    Jim Hughes, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Quality, said ConocoPhillips reported emissions from the fire that included 6.8 tons of sulfur dioxide, 10.4 tons of particulate matter, 5 tons of carbon monoxide, 1.5 tons of hydrocarbons and 400 pounds of nitrogen oxides.
    There will be no enforcement action because the fire is considered to be a malfunction, Hughes said.
    The fire triggered an odor complaint and calls about soot fallout on the South Side. The smoke plume traveled up the Yellowstone Valley. A sulfur dioxide monitor in Laurel recorded low concentrations of the pollutant.

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