Explosion, Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Husky Ohio Refinery Unit

January 12, 2015

A fire that started after an explosion on Saturday at Husky Energy Inc’s 155,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) crude oil refinery in Lima, Ohio, has caused extensive damage to a unit at the plant, a fire official said Sunday.

No injuries were reported in the blast, which was heard across the city and shattered nearby windows, according to local media reports. Husky said all personnel were accounted for at the refinery.

Sources said output at the plant has stopped and was unlikely to resume for several days.

The blast involved the 26,000-barrel-per-day isocracker unit, according to a source familiar with the facility’s operations. At the time of the blast, the unit was being restarted after maintenance, a second source said. There was extensive damage to the unit and the nearby ultraformer, which boosts the octane in gasoline, a third person said.

An isocracker is a type of hydrocracking unit, which uses hydrogen under high heat and pressure to increase the amount of motor fuels made from crude oil.

“It’s going to be a long time for that (isocracker) to ramp up again,” said Matt Bridges, a fire department spokesman. While the unit’s reactors remained intact, the pumps and compressors were “gone,” Bridges said.

The fire, which began about 6 a.m. local time on Saturday (1300 GMT), was extinguished by Sunday morning.

A source familiar with the plant’s operations said they have good stockpiles of diesel and jet. The plant has eight tanks for gasoline, which are about 60 percent full, the person said.

Output has been halted with the units on “circulation” to keep them warm, according to one source.

Husky spokesman Mel Duvall said on Saturday “it was too early” to assess the impact on production.

“We do have substantial product in inventory to continue to supply customers,” he said.

A source said the isocracker is situated in a section of the refinery called the Lima Integration Unit, built around 1970. The section includes the crude unit, hydrocracker, naphtha hydrotreater, and reformer, which are the most modern part of the plant, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The isocracker unit was previously damaged in a 2009 fire.

The refinery gets about 65,000 bpd of crude imported from Canada, a mix of light and medium grades, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In addition, it runs domestically produced crude oil.

A second incident at a refinery in Philadelphia was reported late Saturday.

The weather in the northern United States has been bitterly cold this week, with wind chill temperatures below 0 Fahrenheit (below -18 Celsius) in some areas. Husky did not say whether the cold had affected the refinery’s performance.

Husky is Canada’s third largest integrated energy company and is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia; Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault, Ruth Pitchford and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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