Fire Nearly Extinguished At Texas Refinery After Explosion

Saturday, February 17th 2007, 2:33 pm
By: News On 6

SUNRAY, Texas (AP) -- Firefighters were dousing the last flames at a west Texas refinery Saturday, a day after an explosion injured 19 people and produced a billowing cloud of smoke that could be seen 60 miles away.

No deaths were reported and all employees at the Valero Energy Corp. McKee Refinery were accounted for, the company said.

The company said late Saturday morning that the fire was "essentially extinguished." Paul Jenkins, fire chief in the nearby community of Dumas, said Valero's fire brigade was fighting the blaze.

Valero said the fire was believed to have started at the refinery's "propane de-asphalting unit," where fuel is processed at high temperatures.

More than 400 workers were evacuated from the refinery after the explosion, authorities said. The refinery was shut down after the blast, as were pipelines in and out of the facility, the company said.

Two Valero employees and a contract worker who had been in critical condition were transferred to a regional burn unit in Lubbock. One remained in critical but stable condition and the other two were in satisfactory condition, a nursing supervisor said.

Representatives of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency were at the site Saturday, Valero said. U.S. Chemical Safety Board officials were expected.

Valero, the largest refiner in North America, operates 17 refineries, 16 in North America and one in Aruba. The McKee refinery, located in Sunray, is one of six in Texas and has a capacity of 170,000 barrels per day. Sunray has a population of about 2,000.