UpdateCitgo downplays attempt to halt release of US fire video

09 December 2009 22:28  [Source: ICIS news]

(Adds updates throughout)

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US refiner Citgo said on Wednesday that it was committed to fully cooperating with the ongoing Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation of the 19 July fire at its Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery and denied claims that it labelled a video of the blaze as security sensitive solely to prevent embarrassment.

Earlier Wednesday, the CSB issued two “urgent” safety recommendations to Citgo along with a video of the initial pipe failure, release, ignition and fire as captured by surveillance cameras at the 163,000 bbl/day refinery.

Citgo sought to prevent the video’s release, claiming that it would “raise substantial issues of national security”. However, the CSB said it received affirmation from the US Department of Homeland Security that it did not fall under classifications requiring protection from disclosure.

As a result, the CSB said it found Citgo’s efforts “disturbing” and contrary to the intent of a recent law passed by Congress following similar secrecy claims by Bayer CropScience in West Virginia.

“By raising concerns to CSB’s release of the incident videos at this time to the public, we were simply acting in good faith to maintain and preserve the security of our refinery,” Citgo said in a statement. “Moreover, Citgo has provided these videos to all the investigating agencies that requested them.”

In addition, Citgo said it had already taken action on the board’s recommendations – including the revamp of its emergency water system and the use of third-party audits to ensure the safety of its hydrogen fluoride units.

“Citgo remains committed to fully cooperating with the ongoing CSB investigation into the incident ... and looks forward to reviewing the findings of the full report,” the company said.

The fire led to the hospitalization of one worker.

The investigation should conclude next August, the CSB said.

Citgo is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.

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By: Ben DuBose
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