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Ticking time bomb to shut. Philly oil refinery to close after fire and explosions

PortandTerminal.com, June 27, 2019

The owner of the largest oil refinery complex on the East Coast is telling officials that it will close the facility after a fire last week set off explosions and damaged equipment there.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) intends to shut its oil refinery in the city after a massive fire caused substantial damage to the complex, the company confirmed on Wednesday.

“Today, Philadelphia Energy Solutions made the difficult decision to commence shutdown of the refining complex,” said Mark Smith, CEO of the company, which went through bankruptcy and financial restructuring last year. “While our teams include some of the most talented people in the industry, the recent fire at the refinery complex has made it impossible for us to continue operations.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Wednesday that Philadelphia Energy Solutions had informed him of its decision to shut down the facility in the next month. The more than 1,000 workers there will be impacted, the mayor said.

The recent fire at the refinery complex has made it impossible for us to continue operations.”

The 150-year-old oil refining complex processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily, according to PES. The refinery turns the crude into gasoline, jet fuel, propane, home heating oil and other products.

It started as a bulk petroleum storage facility in 1866 and began refinery operations in 1870.

Ticking time bomb?

300,000 people who live within 3 miles (5 km) of the refinery

The refinery, which is located in South Philadelphia in a densely populated area, was a ticking time bomb many felt.

Many believe that the PES refinery uses a dangerous, old technology that allowed it to continue to operate beyond its useful life.

Like many other old refineries, the one in Philadelphia still uses HFL (hydrofluoric acid) technology. Hydrofluoric acid is used in the alkylation unit to make gasoline blendstocks called alkylates that boost the gasoline’s octane level.

Bhopal, India (1984) – a major gas leak occurred at Union Carbide pesticide plant in a densely populated urban area. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas. The death toll was 2,259

Exposure to higher concentrations of hydrofluoric acid can result in serious damage to the lungs, and fatal pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) may develop after a delay of several hours. Brief exposure (5 min) to 50 to 250 ppm may be fatal to humans. Ingestion of HF can produce severe injury to the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract and may be fatal.

“Philadelphia and surrounding communities appear to have narrowly dodged a catastrophe this morning,” Joseph Otis Minott, executive director of the Clean Air Council, said in a letter calling for the CSB to investigate.

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions explosion nearly bathed south Philly in hydrofluoric acid

Online reaction

The company emerged from federal bankruptcy court last year after restructuring its debt, leaving its majority ownership in the hands of investment banking firms Credit Suisse Asset Management and Bardin Hill.

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