Initial Explosion Ripped Through Gasoline Creation Unit
A week after a Wisconsin oil refinery explosion, investigators and company officials are finally releasing essential information related to the cause of the accident. They jointly released a statement that indicates the initial explosion at the Husky Energy refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, occurred in the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit. This information was confirmed by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.
The FCC unit is the part of a refinery in which crude oil is heated and extraction occurs to create gasoline and other petroleum-based products. Hazardous chemicals are also involved in the heating and extraction process in the FCC unit. These hazardous chemicals include hydrogen fluoride.
Although the location of the primary explosion is now revealed, investigators have not yet announced why the FCC unit failed. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board backed up lack of information at the moment and stated that not enough data has been gathered and analyzed to definitively state why the FCC unit failed and the explosion occurred.
Forced Evacuation After Explosion
In the aftermath of the Wisconsin oil refinery explosion, a state of emergency was declared and thousands of nearby residents were forced to evacuate their homes. The evacuation was not ordered as a result of the intense fire or fear that it would spread. Moreover, the state of emergency was not declared out of a concern that additional explosions might harm the public in the proximity of the refinery.
Rather, the state of emergency and mandatory evacuation were ordered because of the possible release of hydrogen fluoride in the massive smoke plumes that blew out following the explosion. Because this dangerous chemical is used in the FCC unit as part of the refining process, the preliminary conclusion has been that the smoke plumes contained that gas.
As noted, hydrogen fluoride is described as a highly dangerous gas. When the gas comes into contact with moisture, it forms "corrosive and penetrating hydrofluoric acid upon contact with moisture," according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, the gas can cause blindness by rapid destruction of the corneas.
Public Officials Call for Ban on Hydrogen Fluoride
In the aftermath of the Wisconsin oil refinery explosion, public officials, including mayors in communities near the plant, called for a ban on the use of hydrogen fluoride in the petroleum refining process. The Mayor of Duluth, Wisconsin stated:
"We welcome their investment in our economies and the good paying jobs this work provides. However, choosing the known risks of hydrogen fluoride is not something that is in keeping with the premise of being a good corporate partner. It elevates the danger to our environment and our people." In response, the refinery stated that it could consider alternatives to hydrogen fluoride during the plant rebuilding process.
Immediate Injuries in Wisconsin Oil Refinery Explosion
Six people were taken to area hospitals in the immediate aftermath of the Wisconsin oil refinery explosion. There were no fatalities. The status of all six injured people was not available. The speculation was that they had all been released from hospitals a week after the explosion. No other details were available on their injuries.
Injuries to General Public
Investigators have not released any information about the specific impact the release of hydrogen fluoride, or other harmful gasses or substances, may have had on members of the general public. Indeed, it is possible that members of the public could have faced exposure to harmful chemicals as a result of the explosion that results in health complications that may not become evident for some time.
Oil Refinery Explosion Hotline
A grim reality is that oil refinery explosions, and explosions at chemical and other types of plants, occur with shocking frequency. Some of the injuries and fatalities are immediate, or nearly so. Others are not.
If you, or a loved one, has been in the proximity of an oil refinery explosion, or similar type of event, you may have a number of significant questions and concerns. If that is the case, the Oil Refinery Explosion Hotline at (800) 349-0000 is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
You can even schedule a meeting with an experienced, tenacious oil refinery explosion injury lawyer from The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide firm with offices located coast to coast. The Doan Law Firm can schedule an initial consultation at any of its offices, at your home, at the hospital, or even a virtual consultation online. There is no charge for an initial consultation with The Doan Law Firm.
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