No injuries were reported when a tank holding a mixture of crude oil and water overheated, producing a huge steam cloud that wafted away from the refinery, said Jamal Nielson, a spokesman for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
The vapor cloud spewed from the 11.3-million-gallon tank when hot oil mixed with the tank's water, said Alex Moorhead, a refinery spokesman.
The area around the tank was subsequently closed, and an unknown number of workers were evacuated to another part of the refinery, Nielson said.
Moorhead said the tank had not yet returned to normal temperature when reached by telephone Wednesday afternoon.
Police and refinery officials briefly blocked roads near the refinery — the second largest in the Western Hemisphere — until the air quality tests by refinery officials ensured the vapor plume had passed, Moorhead said.
Neighborhoods near the tank were not evacuated, Nielson said, because tests showed acceptable air quality in the area.
According to Nielson, the Environmental Protection Agency and local officials plan to inspect the tank and review the refinery's safety records.
Hovensa, situated on St. Croix's southern coast, is co-owned by New York-based Amerada Hess Corporation and Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of Venezuela.
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