Fire Erupts At Texas Refinery; At Least 3 Injured

Friday, February 16th 2007, 6:19 pm
By: News On 6

SUNRAY, Texas (AP) _ An explosion rocked a west Texas refinery Friday afternoon, injuring at least three people and sparking a blaze that sent a huge black cloud billowing into the sky.

Dumas Fire Chief Paul Jenkins said the Valero McKee Refinery, which has more than 400 workers, was evacuated following the blast. No fatalities were reported, and Valero Energy Corp. said all plant employees had been accounted for.

``The main thing is getting them away from there,'' Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades said.

Valero said in a statement that the fire was believed to have started at the Valero McKee Refinery's ``propane deasphalting unit,'' where fuel is processed at high temperatures. Witnesses said the smoke could be seen 60 miles away.

A nursing supervisor at University Medical Center in Lubbock, home of the regional burn unit, said one man was in critical condition and that two more were expected who were also in critical condition. All were suffering from burns, she said. Patients were also expected in Amarillo.

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.