Oil Refinery Explosion & Fire in Philadelphia — Significant Lesson for Mankind

by Duane Nichols on June 24, 2019

Refinery fire in Philly on Friday, June 21, 2019

What the ‘Fossil Fuel Economy Looks Like’: Demands for Climate Justice After Explosion Rocks Philly Oil Refinery

From an Article by Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams, June 21, 2019

Climate advocates reiterated their calls to ditch the fossil fuel economy on Friday following an explosion at an oil refinery complex in Philadelphia that sent a fireball into the sky.

“The largest blast was so strong,” reported local NBC10, “that the GOES-16 meterological satellite recorded it from space.”

Per Reuters: “It was the worst I’ve ever experienced,” said a veteran refinery worker who was at the plant when the fire broke out. “It looked like a nuclear bomb went off. I thought we were all going to die.”

The flames erupted at roughly 4am at Philadelphia Energy Solutions’s (PES) refinery complex, which triggered a temporary shelter-in-place order.

Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy, speaking to the press at about 7am, said that a vat of butane had caught fire, though the company later said that it was “mostly propane,” that was burning.

“PES said there were three separate explosions that ‘impacted’ a unit that produces alkylate, which is used to boost gasoline octane,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Four workers suffered mild injured and were treated on site, the company added.

“The refinery processes approximately 335,000 barrels of crude oil per day (42 U.S. gallons per barrel), making it the largest oil refining complex on the U.S. Eastern seaboard,” the company website states, adding that the facility “strives to be a good neighbor in our surrounding community.”

It is also “the largest single source of particulate pollution in the Philadelphia area even when there isn’t an emergency,” NBC10 reported.

Friday’s blaze was the second fire at the refinery this month; the other took place June 10, as ABC6 noted.

“I believe that there is room for improvement, both in the operation of the refinery in light of two fires in as many weeks, and in the communication to residents,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Friday.

Climate campaigners are looking for more than just improvements in operations. “Explosions like this are what the fossil fuel economy looks like,” said Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement.

“When we burn fossil fuels, we endanger the air that we breathe and the water that we drink,” she said. “When we burn fossil fuels, we endanger our lives. And it’s no coincidence that communities of color and poor communities, like Southwest Philadelphia, are on the frontline of crises like this.”

Those communities are fed up. As local environmental justice group Philly Thrive pointed out Friday, a danger exists not just when refinery explosions grab headlines.

“Do you know how scared I was this morning to be shaken out of my sleep by the explosion?” said Sonya Sanders, a Philadelphia resident and member of Philly Thrive. “I do everything I can to close my windows and keep this pollution out of my house. But when these fires happen it shows there really is nothing we can do to protect ourselves.”

“Enough is enough,” continued Sanders. “We have to act before half the people in South and Southwest Philly are dead.”

“We have the right to breathe clean air,” added Philly Thrive member Sylvia Bennett, “and we need to hold the refinery accountable for what they’re putting out into the community.”

To jump-start such action, lawmakers should pass the Green New Deal legislation, said Sunrise’s Prakash, and stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry which is fueling the climate crisis. “Our leaders have chosen to put profits for some of the wealthiest men on Earth over the health and wellbeing of the rest of us,” said Prakash. “Unless we change course now and treat the crisis for what it is, we will continue to see more disasters like today.”

“It makes no sense to continue handing out massive tax breaks to dangerous refineries like the Philadelphia Energy Solutions facility,” she continued. “Instead, we must enact a Green New Deal that transitions us into a 21st century renewable economy and creates millions of jobs in the process.”


See Also: PHILADELPHIA REFINERY FIRE: Explosions at Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery caught on video | 6abc.com

The blaze at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex broke out around 4 a.m. Friday June 21st at a tank containing a mixture of butane and propane. Five workers were treated for minor injuries, and nearby residents were asked to stay inside. The cause remained unclear.

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Rachel Ramirez July 2, 2019 at 9:49 pm

Philadelphia refinery will close after fire. Now who will clean up the mess?

From an Article by Rachel Ramirez, Grist Magazine, June 28, 2019

In the wake of last week’s intense fire and loud series of explosions, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, one of the largest and oldest oil refineries in the country, is finally shutting its doors. The blasts jolted nearby residents and sparked new concerns about the plant’s impact on public health.

The 150-year-old oil complex has a history of dangerous industrial incidents including accidental fires and hazardous gas leaks. In the past, South Philadelphia residents have drawn connections between the neighborhoods high cancer and asthma incidence and their proximity to the refinery. The plant, which processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil each day, is the largest source of air pollution in the city and has been in violation of both the Clean Air and Water Acts.

The refinery has also a long and gruesome financial track record. And according to a newly surfaced report, the private company appears to have been aided by none other than former Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt.

Based on internal department documents, Pruitt and other executives at the EPA had three previously unreported meetings with PES officials, the first of which occurred shortly before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2018. The purpose of the meetings was to reorganize the refinery’s more than $100 million in debt. Two months later the agency granted ultimately the company temporary financial relief. PES emerged from bankruptcy in August 2018.

In a statement on Wednesday, CEO Mark Smith announced the refinery will permanently shut down while preparing the complex site “for a sale and restart” under new ownership.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the company’s decision may have been strongly influenced by the high cost of repairs needed after last week’s blast, the exact cause of which remains under investigation. The move will put around 1,000 people out of jobs in the next several months; approximately 100 non-union employees will soon be laid off, while 700 union employees are expected to leave in mid-July, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday, employees were reportedly seen leaving the site lugging boxes with personal belongings. The news has already led to an increase in the price of wholesale gasoline.

Some residents see the plant’s closure as an overall public health win but say the company still needs to pay for any refinery-produced toxins left in the community. “You close [the refinery] down, but who’s going to clean up the mess that you’ve already created?” said Carol White, a member of the grassroots group Philly Thrive, which has been fighting the PES refinery for several years based on community health concerns.

And even assuming the refinery does shut down, the neighborhood would still face health burdens. The Philadelphia City Council recently approved the construction of a $60 million liquidated natural gas plant across from the refinery complex. The project is expected to bring up to $4 million per year in revenue for the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works. Philly Thrive is now asking Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to block construction of the new gas plant as well as demand the 1,300 acres of land owned by PES be restored to the public.

“Philadelphians no longer breathing PES’s toxic air is a big first step, but it’s not the end,” Philly Thrive member Sylvia Bennett said in a statement. “We have to stay focused and make sure it actually happens.”



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