80.3 F
Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesFALSE ALARM BLARES AT HOVENSA REFINERY

FALSE ALARM BLARES AT HOVENSA REFINERY

Oct. 26, 2001 — A blaring alarm Friday morning at the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix frayed some nerves of island residents, but what triggered the alert was only a minor mishap.
At about 10 a.m. a valve on a process unit that extracts sulfur from petroleum products at the giant refinery on the island’s south shore began to leak, according to Alex Moorhead, Hovensa vice president for human resources. The leak resulted in the spraying of heavy hydrocarbon, known as vacuum gas oil, in the area around the valve, Moorhead said in a statement.
"This was incorrectly believed to be a release of flammable gas and therefore the refinery’s vapor cloud response procedures were implemented, including the activation of the refinery’s vapor cloud alarm," Moorhead said.
As refinery workers searched for the problem, adjacent roads were closed and traffic was re-routed.
After the error was discovered, Moorhead said, the alarm was deactivated. The process unit with the leaking valve was temporarily shut down so the valve could be repaired. The unit was being put back into service Friday, he said.
"There was no fire as the result of the leaking valve. No one was injured and no equipment was damaged as the result of the incident," Moorhead said. "Hovensa regrets any anxiety that may have been caused to the public by the sounding of the vapor alarm."
Five months ago, a similar alert at Hovensa, the largest refinery in the Western Hemisphere, was not a false alarm. On May 15, a fire started when leaking "light hydrocarbon" was ignited by heat from nearby processing equipment. Light hydrocarbon is similar in composition to gasoline.
Hovensa’s fire brigade controlled the towering blaze in about an hour, but not before one refinery worker suffered third-degree burns over 35 percent of his body. Four other workers were given first aid and released from the refinery’s medical unit. The fire resulted in a cutback in the refinery's capacity to produce gasoline.
The St. Croix refinery employs approximately 950 people, while its contractors employ more than 1,000. The facility currently produces about 400,000 barrels of oil a day, with the capacity to produce 500,000.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland, the refinery has been a focus of security concerns as government officials worried that it could be a target in future attacks. Hovensa has its own security force, which has been supplemented recently by off-duty police officers.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,717FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Oct. 26, 2001 -- A blaring alarm Friday morning at the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix frayed some nerves of island residents, but what triggered the alert was only a minor mishap.
At about 10 a.m. a valve on a process unit that extracts sulfur from petroleum products at the giant refinery on the island’s south shore began to leak, according to Alex Moorhead, Hovensa vice president for human resources. The leak resulted in the spraying of heavy hydrocarbon, known as vacuum gas oil, in the area around the valve, Moorhead said in a statement.
"This was incorrectly believed to be a release of flammable gas and therefore the refinery’s vapor cloud response procedures were implemented, including the activation of the refinery’s vapor cloud alarm," Moorhead said.
As refinery workers searched for the problem, adjacent roads were closed and traffic was re-routed.
After the error was discovered, Moorhead said, the alarm was deactivated. The process unit with the leaking valve was temporarily shut down so the valve could be repaired. The unit was being put back into service Friday, he said.
"There was no fire as the result of the leaking valve. No one was injured and no equipment was damaged as the result of the incident," Moorhead said. "Hovensa regrets any anxiety that may have been caused to the public by the sounding of the vapor alarm."
Five months ago, a similar alert at Hovensa, the largest refinery in the Western Hemisphere, was not a false alarm. On May 15, a fire started when leaking "light hydrocarbon" was ignited by heat from nearby processing equipment. Light hydrocarbon is similar in composition to gasoline.
Hovensa’s fire brigade controlled the towering blaze in about an hour, but not before one refinery worker suffered third-degree burns over 35 percent of his body. Four other workers were given first aid and released from the refinery’s medical unit. The fire resulted in a cutback in the refinery's capacity to produce gasoline.
The St. Croix refinery employs approximately 950 people, while its contractors employ more than 1,000. The facility currently produces about 400,000 barrels of oil a day, with the capacity to produce 500,000.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland, the refinery has been a focus of security concerns as government officials worried that it could be a target in future attacks. Hovensa has its own security force, which has been supplemented recently by off-duty police officers.