22 February 2007 07:03 [Source: ICIS news]
"We have interviewed many eyewitnesses to the accident. The testimony suggests that there likely was a release of liquid propane," US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) supervisory investigator Don Holmstrom said in a statement.
"At atmospheric pressure, liquid propane rapidly vaporises and expands to form a vapour cloud. This cloud ignited a short time later."
The 170,000 bbl/day McKee refinery in Sunray, Texas, was shut after a fire on 16 February in the propane deasphalting (PDA) unit.
"There were three one-tonne chlorine cylinders nearby that were exposed to the fire and some of their contents were likely released," Holmstrom said. However, propane storage spheres near the PDA unit were not damaged, he added.
The CSB plan to inspect soon specific valves, piping, and equipment "in the north section of the PDA unit which could be the location of the initial release", he said.
Valero earlier said it will be several weeks at least before it can restart the refinery.
Damage to the refinery was largely confined to the PDA and adjacent piping systems, it added. There was also heat damage to a cooling tower near the PDA unit and fire damage to a naphtha fractionation tower.
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