Pasadena, Texas Oil Refinery Injury
Oil refineries in Pasadena, Texas transform crude oil into marketable end user products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and kerosene. The largest refinery in Pasadena is LyondellBassell’s 700 acre facility near the Pasadena freeway. It is a 268,000 barrel-per-day facility that processes heavy crude oil. The other main refineries are Valero with its 235,000 barrel-per-day facility and Pasadena Refining System’s 106,000 barrel-per-day refinery owned by Petrobras.
Oil refineries are inherently dangerous because of the heat used to boil the crude oil and distill it and the hazardous materials added to or removed from the process. Given the highly flammable nature of the inputs and outputs of the process, it isn’t surprising that each refinery has its own fire fighting team and equipment in case of emergencies, fires or explosions. To avoid work injuries and lost time extensive safety procedures and training programs are in place to make sure everyone is safe.
The main function of an oil refinery is to process and split crude oil into its various parts and produce fuels such as gasoline or diesel fuel. Other products include petroleum solvents, asphalt and lubricating oils which are used in manufacturing for hydraulic and mechanical equipment.
Explosions or fires in process areas are the most dangerous
Three components must be present for a fire or explosion to occur:
- A flammable atmosphere such as fuel, other liquid substances or gas vapors;
- Oxygen for combustion;
- A source of energy to ignite.
Leakages of flammable substances whether liquid, gas or vapors that come in contact with an ignition source can cause an explosion or a fire. Electrostatic sparks or mechanical friction from moving parts can easily provide this ignition source presenting a serious risk of burn injuries to plant personnel.
Exposure to hazardous materials
The greatest potential for exposure occurs during partial or complete plant shutdowns. It is at this time that a number of items of work are performed:
- Tanks and other storage vessels are cleaned;
- Pumps, pipes, valves and fittings are either repaired or replaced;
- Distillation towers, heat exchangers, boilers and reactors are inspected.
During a shutdown operations and maintenance staff can easily be exposed to hazardous materials and suffer serious injury if they are not properly trained or if safety procedures are not strictly followed. Here are some of the dangers:
- Toxic inhalation injury from hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide especially when entering tanks or other storage vessels;
- Severe burn injury and damage to the eye, nose, neck and throat from exposure to hydrofluoric acid which is used extensively in the alkylation process;
- Serious injury from asphyxiation working in oxygen deficient confined spaces.
Confined Space and Hot Work
The layout and design of a refinery presents many confined spaces. These are enclosed areas in equipment such as tanks, vessels and ducts where operators and maintenance personnel find themselves when working during a shutdown. Hot work refers to any work involving heat such as welding, grinding and cutting. The wide variety of hazardous chemicals that are often present can create an oxygen deprived, toxic and explosive atmosphere in confined spaces at an oil refinery. If you are performing hot work in and around these areas the risk for injury are many:
- Injuries to your skin from corrosive materials such as caustic soda and sulfuric acid;
- Burn injury from a fire ignited while performing hot work near a confined space;
- Physical injury such as a fractured arm or broken leg trying to evacuate a confined space
The attorneys at Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. have extensive experience investigating work injury accidents. If a coworker or contractor caused your accident call us so that we can advise you on your legal options. If the company you work for was negligent and this led to your work injury contact Michael Fleming for free advice 713-221-6800.