02 October 2009 23:26 [Source: ICIS news]
(adds Citgo response in paragraphs 1, 5, 6)
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US refiner Citgo on Friday downplayed safety concerns regarding the start-up plan for the alkylation unit at its Corpus Christi refinery in Texas, adding that the plan was in accordance with industry and government standards.
The statement came after the United Steelworkers (USW) union asked the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to review that plan, citing safety concerns.
A refinery fire at the unit from 19-20 July led to the release of nearly 4,000lb (1.8 tonnes) of hydrogen fluoride and was the largest such leak at the plant since 1988, according to environmental groups.
One worker was hospitalised following the incident, and the unit has been shut down since the fire.
But Citgo said its investigations following the accident have concluded that the emission level was overstated, and in reality was less than 30lb (14kg).
Findings from that investigation are being incorporated into the rebuilding design of the unit, Citgo said.
Citgo anticipates a start-up date of 10 October for the unit, despite delaying a maintenance turnaround on the unit to 2011 that was originally scheduled for February 2009, the USW said in the letter to OSHA.
As a result, the USW said the unit, without the turnaround, poses a significant hazard to workers at the facility.
In addition, workers are also concerned with manufactured pipe clamps and deteriorated process lines being overlooked in an accelerated start up, the union said.
“The company has stated that not all the instrumentation may be functional at that time, but they will attempt to start the unit in this condition and change out instrumentation as time permits after the unit is online,” said local USW union president John Warner.
The USW also asked OSHA to review Citgo’s plans for de-inventory and reconstruction of the unit.
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