Wisconsin's only oil refinery not expected to resume full operations
Calgary, Alberta-based Husky Energy has stated that it does not expect
its Superior WI unit, the site of an April fire and explosion, to resume
normal operations for at least 18 to 24 months, which would place the
restart at between January and July 2020 at the earliest. Initial estimates
indicate that that repairs and site cleanup following the April fire and
explosion at the only oil refinery in the State of Wisconsin could exceed
$80 million dollars.
Husky had completed its $435 million purchase of the refinery from its
previous owner, Calumet Specialty Products Partners L.P., in November
2017. Husky has said it expects that insurance will cover at least part
of the costs associated with repairs and site cleanup at the facility.
In addition to the Superior refinery, Husky also owns a refinery in Lima
OH and 50% stake in another refinery in Toledo OH.
Class action lawsuit alleges that refinery owner's negligence caused
In a related development,
KSTP-TV has reported that three Superior residents have filed a class action lawsuit in federal
court alleging that Husky Energy, described as one of Canada's largest
energy companies, was negligent in its operation of the facility during
planned routine maintenance prior to the April 26 explosion and subsequent fire.
According to the plaintiffs (identified in
court documents as Jasen Bruzek, Hope Koplin, and Neil Miller) and their legal counsel,
the lawsuit could eventually involve "thousands" of additional
The three plaintiffs are claiming the evacuation forced them to spend money
on things like food, supplies, transportation and child care. One plaintiff,
Hope Koplin, said her mother, who was in home hospice care prior to the
fire, was so stressed by her evacuation to a nearby hospital that it led
to her death died shortly afterward. Another plaintiff, Neil Miller, alleges
that his house was covered with ash when he returned after the mandatory
evacuation and that someone from Husky had told him the company would
help clean up the mess. Nothing has been done so far, he said.
After reviewing the initial court filings, Husky Energy's media relations
coordinator Kim Guttormson issued a statement saying, in part:
"Since the April 26 fire, we have been working to resolve any related
claims, including those for accommodation, food and lost wages. To date,
about 98 percent of the claims presented to us have been successfully
closed and we continue to address the others …"
"We are cooperating fully with those agencies investigating the incident.
As this matter is before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment
In support of their lawsuit, the plaintiffs state that:
In 2008 refinery's previous owner, Murphy Oil, paid a $179,100 fine
to settle some 30 federal safety violations.
In 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited
the refinery for multiple violations involving the storage of flammable
and combustible liquids, hazardous waste operations, and emergency response
On April 26 of this year, Husky's negligent response to the incident
caused a nuisance and trespass on private land of soot, ash and toxic
On the morning of the explosion, several workers employed by Evergreen
North America and Jamar Contractors, Inc., companies that had been hired
by Husky Energy to do routine refinery maintenance, said that they ran
from their work area after hearing "a strange knocking noise"
coming from the refinery. Husky employees told them to go back to work,
however, and the workers complied with that request. According to federal
investigators, 30 to 45 minutes later the refinery blew up. At least seven
of those workers have filed their own lawsuits against Husky in relation
to the incident.
U.S. Chemical Safety Board says worn valve caused Husky Superior explosion
As part of its "ongoing investigation" into the fire and explosion
at the Husky Superior Refinery, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has
released its preliminary opinion regarding what it believes was the cause
of this April's explosion and fire that led to a mandatory, precautionary,
overnight evacuation of areas near and downwind of the refinery.
According to the CSB, the blast occurred in the refinery's fluid catalytic
cracking unit, which was being shut down for routine maintenance. That
refinery unit converts hydrocarbons found in petroleum into gasoline.
During the maintenance shutdown, the CSB determined that conditions existed
that could have allowed air to flow backward across a worn valve and into
an area containing flammable hydrocarbons, which caused the explosion.
As luck would have it, the explosion happened while most workers were on
a scheduled break. Many were in blast-resistant buildings or were away
from the blast area at the time of the explosion and subsequent fire.
read the CSB's interim report on the CSB website. You can also watch a computer-generated recreation
of the events leading up to the explosion by following this
Doan Law Firm, we will continue to monitor future developments in this incident and
will provide updates as circumstances may dictate.