The Silver Eagle Refinery located in Woods Cross has agreed to follow a safety board recommendation to shut down indefinitely in the wake of a November 4th explosion. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has been at the refinery since the explosion which damaged the plant and several nearby homes. The current investigation is on the heels of the board’s investigation of a flash fire at the same refinery in January that severely burned two contractors.
The specific current concern is with the integrity of the pipes and processing units that run throughout the refinery. The recent explosion, which was powerful enough to knock at least one home in an adjacent neighborhood off its foundation, was caused by the rupture of one such highly pressurized pipes. The significant thinning of the pipe that caused the rupture was not detected by the refinery’s mechanical integrity program.
The Silver Eagle Refinery is Utah’s smallest with daily output of 8,500 barrels of processed crude oil, but 60 employees are affected by the closure. The refinery will not reopen until all pipes and processes are inspected and necessary repairs are made. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board also has a current investigation open into an October 21st fire at the nearby Tesoro refinery.
Refineries in Utah are concentrated in one area just north of Salt Lake City along the congested and heavily traveled Interstate 15 corridor. Local communities have also allowed high density residential development in the areas adjacent to the refineries, so local residents literally live in the back yards of the refineries. Because so many people travel and live in the danger zones, and because worker safety has to be put first, safety must be the highest priority of the refineries and the agencies that regulate them. The refineries have dodged bullets recently insofar as no one has been killed by the fires and explosions, but let’s hope all involved are taking a hard look at the refinery operations to ensure that future injuries, deaths and property damage do not occur.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.