Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2019 at 8:30 am
The Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery in Roxana, IL, exploded in the early evening on Sunday, February 10. One man was reported injured in the event, though reports say he only sustained minor injuries. After the explosion and resulting fire, the injured man was able to walk himself to the ambulance where he was taken to a nearby hospital to get checked out.
According to Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery spokeswoman Melissa Erker, the explosion, or as she referred to it, “an incident,” happened around 4:30 p.m. Residents in the surrounding community heard the explosion from inside their homes, and they were able to see a column of fire spouting out of the refinery after the initial blast.
Erker said the “incident” led to the fire taking hold in a process unit. The fire is under control and has been separated from additional danger. The spokeswoman told local reporters, “The scene is secure, the refinery is secure, and the air quality in the region is fine.”
The Phillips 66 refinery employs over 1,100 people and covers 2,200 acres, so it’s fortunate that only one person was only hurt with minor injuries.
Spokeswoman Erker said that Phillips 66 is going to investigate what could have caused the explosion, that their mistakes will be learned from, and what they learn will keep incidents like this from happening again. However, there is still no word on what may have lead to the explosion.
The Phillips Disaster
Regardless of what plants spokespeople say after nearly every explosion that takes place at one of their facilities, this wasn’t the first explosion in a Phillips 66 facility and it very likely won’t be the last. One of the worst plant explosions in American history happened at a Phillips 66 plant, and it is now referred to as The Phillips Disaster of 1989.
On October 23, 1989, a series of explosions rocked the Phillips 66 Houston Chemical Complex, which is technically located in Pasadena. The explosions at this facility were so powerful, in fact, that they registered on the Richter scale at a 3.5 magnitude. After the explosion, controlling the resulting fire took ten hours of firefighting. Ultimately, 23 employees were killed and another 314 were injured.
After a thorough investigation, it was found that the explosion was caused by a release of highly flammable process gases on a polyethylene reactor. Over 39 tons (about 85,000 lbs) of those gases were released almost instantly via an open valve while employees were attempting to conduct regular maintenance. It was later discovered that the valve had been reversed during the previous maintenance, leaving the workers to believe they were shutting the valve off rather than fully opening it.
The gasses that came flooding out of the open valve spread quickly through the plant. In under two minutes, the gas cloud made its way to an ignition source. When the two made contact, the resulting blast had an equivalent energy release of 2.4 tons of TNT. In a matter of minutes after that, a 20,000 gollan isobutane exploded, another polyethylene reactor failed, and another assumed six more explosions spread through the plant.
Findings from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
After any explosion such as the one that occurred on Sunday evening, OSHA conducts a thorough investigation to determine what safety violations may have been committed within the company. These investigations can take a number of months to complete, so it may be a few more months before we know the extent of the issues that led to the Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery explosion.
The OSHA investigation from the Phillips Disaster of 1989 ended on April 19, 1990. An OSHA document said, “OSHA issued 566 willful and 9 serious violations with a combined total proposed penalty of $5,666,200 to Phillips 66 Company and 181 willful and 12 serious violations with a combined penalty to Fish Engineering and Construction, Inc., a maintenance contractor on the site.”
Ultimately, OSHA and Phillips 66 agreed on a settlement that led to OSHA deleting the willful aspect of the violations. In return, Phillips 66 said they would add further safety management procedures at a handful of their facilities as well as pay fines of $4,000,000.
Houston Lawyers Experienced in Plant Explosions
When an explosion like the one on Sunday or the so-called Phillips Disaster happens, it can be difficult for a family affected by tragedy to take any kind of action beyond accepting whatever settlement they’re offered.
However, the fact of the matter is that these companies are only looking out for their bottom line – they’re looking to offer as little compensation as possible they believe a bereaved family or injured party will accept. The attorneys at Williams Hart can help you and your family fight for justice and compensation to help make things as right as possible after such an event.
Call us today – (713) 352-7071