Friday, May 8, 2015

Oil Fire Damages Tacoma Port Terminal

By Mark Edward Nero

An oil fire began around 7 a.m. on May 6 in a chimney stack at the Port of Tacoma’s US Oil and Refining Co. terminal after a tube that carries crude oil through a heat source that separates the oil began to leak.

The fire, which sent huge plumes of black smoke across the sky, burned for about two hours Wednesday but according to the company, no injuries were reported and all employees were accounted for.

The Tacoma Fire Department and US Oil & Refining employees ran water on the lower stack while the fire burned off, reducing the risk of a collapse, according to company spokesman Dan Yoder. But although terminal workers quickly turned off the valve to stop the flow, oil that was still in the tube caught fire and sent black smoke up the tall stack. Instead of trying to put out the fire, they let it burn off for safety reasons, Yoder said, explaining that from a safety perspective, it was better to isolate the fuel and let it burn off and that there were no concerns about an explosion occurring.

The major concern was over by 9:15 am, Yoder said.

The refinery processes crude oil and turns it into transportation products, including gasoline, jet fuel and asphalt primarily for the south Puget Sound market. Before the fire, the facility had a refining capacity in excess of 39,000 barrels per stream day and storage capacity exceeding 2.7 million barrels.