Imperial Oil Blaze KOs Hydrocracker


An explosion and fire at 3 a.m. last Thursday at Imperial Oils Sarnia refinery in Ontario put a hydrocracker unit out of commission for an undetermined period of time. The 18,000 barrel per day hydrocracker produces components for lubricant base stock, along with gasoline and diesel fuel.

The Sarnia refinery is a 121,000 b/d refinery. Its paraffinic base oil capacity includes 2,800 b/d of Group 1 and 3,800 b/d of Group II.

Pius Rolheiser, spokesman for Imperial Oil, said the hydrocracker was the only unit affected and that lube trains are not impacted. No one was injured, he added. Our major production units were unaffected even during the incident and continued to run at capacity, Rolheiser told Lube Report.

He said its too early in the investigation to assess specific impacts on areas such as base oil and finished lube production. No product shortages are expected in the near term, Rolheiser said. He said Imperia Oils nearby Nanticoke refinery, on the northern shore of Lake Erie, is closely integrated and interconnected with the Sarnia refinery. The Nanticoke refinery has about 110,000 to 112,000 b/d crude oil capacity. Our ability to move product back and forth to rebalance, should that become necessary,is extensive, he said.

Rolheiser said the company shut down and depressured the hydrocracker unit while Imperial Oil fire crews and the City of Sarnia Fire Department brought the fire under control Thursday. It was under control and still burning through most of the day, he said. We allowed it to burn under supervised conditions, and it was extinguished [Friday] in the early morning hours.

He said an investigation of the fire is under way, in cooperation with fire officials and the appropriate regulatory authorities. The investigation will allow us to determine the cause of the explosion, as well as the damage to the hydrocracker unit, he said. Based on the extent of damage, we will know how much time it will take to repair or rebuild it.

Imperial Oil said in a statement that it had notified all regulatory authorities, and that the Ministries of Environment and Labour have visited the site. The company initiated air quality monitoring immediately after the fire started. All measurements have shown no air quality concerns, the company said. Water-quality monitoring did not detect any problems either, though the Eastern Canada Response Corp. deployed a boom in the St. Clair River as a precaution.

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