November 13, 2009 at 10:25 am #2882
November 6, 2009
A day after the Silver Eagle Refinery in Woods Cross exploded, the company took responsibility for the damage.
Officials told nearby residents their homes would be repaired, the company would pay to fix houses blown off their foundations and replace shattered windows and doors knocked off their hinges.
“We are here to make sure that all the residents’ needs are met,” said Annalys Wilson, an insurance adjustor working for the company. “Our representatives have been out in the neighborhood letting them know that we are eager to help.”
The adjustors from Silver Eagle’s insurance company, though, weren’t the only ones working with the neighbors around the refinery.
Adjustors from the companies that provided homeowners insurance policies also were there, along with a team of five investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The investigators walked the neighborhoods assessing the damage and met with plant officials in preparation for a government investigation into the blast.
Brittany Bennett, whose home had five windows blown out by the explosion and her front door damaged, said repairs already were under way on the entryway, thanks to representatives from her homeowners insurance company who arrived early Thursday morning.
“The front door is being fixed today,” she said. “Two of the windows are supposed to be fixed on Friday. The other three windows will have to be special ordered, so it will take a couple of weeks for them.”
“I just hope they are true to their word,” she said, indicating that Silver Eagle’s insurer has promised that it would even cover any deductible payment that might be required under her homeowners policy.
“Those whose homes were damaged can file their claims through us or through their own homeowners insurance company — whatever they are most comfortable doing,” Wilson said.
The Silver Eagle Refinery, the smallest of five refineries in the area, was built in 1954 when there was little development nearby. The subdivision that suffered the most damage was constructed approximately six years ago after the Woods Cross City Council determined there was little risk.
“That property was zoned for residential development long before I even moved to Woods Cross, which was 18 years ago,” said Kent Parry, the city’s mayor. “I’m sure the council did its homework.”
Parry, however, said when the landowner was requesting permission to build the subdivision, the council commissioned an engineering study to look at the potential risk of building homes so close to the refinery.
Although that study identified potential problems, the council members eventually accepted an alternative study prepared by an engineering firm hired by the developer, Parry said.
“It repudiated the findings of the first study and raised questions about the methodology used.”
The mayor said Woods Cross officials will be following the government’s investigation, and he hopes to work with Silver Eagle officials to come up with a strategy to ensure the safety of nearby residents.
Donald Holmstrom, the investigation supervisor from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, speaking at a news conference Thursday evening, said the government’s investigation will uncover the explosion’s root cause with the goal of ensuring that such an incident will not be repeated. But he said the investigation also could examine the issue of zoning around the Silver Eagle and the proximity of homes.
The issue of having a refinery or other type of plant that could suffer a toxic fire or explosion and damage a surrounding community is not a new one.
There are no industry standards, however, that say, “Homes should be built X number of yards away from a refinery,” said Ron Chittim of the American Petroleum Institute. “It really has to be looked at on an individual basis,” he said. “The siting of the processing units at each individual facility is different.”
Woods Cross resident Linda Wood, whose home was knocked off its foundation, said she knew there was a risk buying a home near the refinery, but she didn’t believe it would be a problem.
“My folks have lived in the Rose Park area since 1974, not too far from a refinery, and their property was never damaged by an explosion,” she said. “I knew the [Silver Eagle] refinery was there when I bought my home. I just wish they’d stop blowing it up.”
by Steven Oberbeck
The Salt Lake Tribune
Past incidents at Silver Eagle
On Jan. 12, a gasoline tank explosion severely burned four workers and forced the evacuation of nearly 100 homes.
On Aug. 15, 2007, a pipeline that feeds a distillation unit caught fire.
On May 6, 2007, crude oil caught fire in a furnace.
In 2005, a diesel line in a furnace caught fire.
Citations — Two citations and notifications of penalty after a 2004 inspection.
Lingering issues — A second citation issued Jan. 14, 2005, drew a $12,900 fine among several issues raised in the infraction: failure to fix problems observed in earlier safety audits and flawed information about machinery, maximum intended inventories and chemicals, contractors’ operating procedures and safety records. It was also criticized for inadequate employee protections against moving parts of machinery and exposure to electrical components.
November 13, 2009 at 10:30 am #5934
A pipe with hundreds of pounds of pressurized hydrogen suffered a “catastrophic failure” that started Wednesday’s explosion at the Silver Eagle Refinery, a federal investigator said Saturday.
When the 10-inch pipe separated, hydrogen spewed to a furnace and ignited, said Donald Holmstrom, an investigations supervisor with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The force of a resulting fireball, combined with the 630 pounds of pressurized hydrogen, burst east toward homes in a Woods Cross neighborhood.
There were no injuries, but 10 homes suffered severe damage. At least one was blown from its foundation.
Holmstrom said investigators don’t know why the pipe suffered what he called a “catastrophic failure.” He told reporters Saturday the Safety Board will test what’s left of the pipe to determine such possibilities as wearing, or if it was made of the correct materials.
Refineries are supposed to monitor the integrity of piping, and Holmstrom said his agency also will inquire whether that monitoring occurred at Silver Eagle.
“I can assure the people who live around this area that we will do a thorough investigation,” Holmstrom said.
A spokeswoman for Silver Eagle said the company was unaware of the Safety Board news conference and could not provide comment.
The pipe was attached to a reactor that removes waxes from diesel fuel. The pipe normally carries
diesel and hydrogen, but the Silver Eagle was performing maintenance at the time of the failure and only hydrogen was in the pipe, Holmstrom said.
The pipe is vertical then bends horizontally. Holmstrom said the failure occurred near the elbow on the horizontal section and spewed the 800-degree hydrogen east toward the neighborhood.
by Nate Carlisle
The Salt Lake Tribune
November 09, 2009
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