Base Oils Unscathed by Calumet Fire


A three-alarm, two-hour fire last Thursday morning at Calumets Shreveport, La. refinery caused no injuries and minor damage. The fire did not affect any base oils production, and all units are running normally, Calumet spokeswoman Liz Swaine told Lube Report. She said the fire also did not disrupt a planned three-week maintenance turnaround, which started Nov. 1 as scheduled.

The fire was fed by a thin layer of oil in the sour water tank that burned until it was suppressed by foam, Calumet said in a statement. The oil smoke is not a toxic compound and dissipated fairly quickly. A sour crude unit was shut down as a safety precaution, but the plant continued and still continues to run at normal capacity.

Calumet at 7:45 a.m. Thursday told the Shreveport Fire Department that a sour water tank was on fire and requested support. The Shreveport police department closed portions of two streets to traffic so that emergency crews would have easy access. Calumet employees were instructed to leave the plant for a short time so that they would not get in the way of fire and other emergency crews, the company stated.

Shreveport Fire Department Chief Brian Crawfordtold Lube Reportthatabout 23 fire companies responded to the refinery fire, and it took a little more than two hours to extinguish it. We were able to do that through the application of foam, separating the product from the oxygen, he added. Initially a two-alarm fire, according to Crawford, the incident was later upgraded to three-alarm status so the department could have additional resources available, along with the ability to rotate firefighting crews and have some on standby.

The sour water tank was completely destroyed, collapsed into itself, he continued. Two of the offloading trucks – product trucks they were loading product into – were destroyed, along with a pickup truck.

The fire chief said the departments initial investigation suggests a fire in the pickup truck may have indirectly led to the blaze in the sour water tank.

It looks like that morning they were offloading some of the sour water product into a couple of tankers, Crawford recalled. They had drafted most of the tank down, so there was only about a foot of water remaining in the tank. They had two trucks there to offload the product into, and also a regular pickup truck there.

According to witnesses on the scene, Crawford said, the pickup truck began to idle very high, began to shake and make some noise. They got out of the truck, and found it to be on fire, he added. Fire investigators said that fire from the truck was in close enough proximity to hit the vapors that were coming out of the sour water tank, ignite that vapor-rich environment and actually spark the fire. Were just following up on our investigation – thats our initial cause.

Crawford said the Environmental Protection Agency is continuing to look into the incident. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has monitored the air in the area and did not find it to be toxic or hazardous, he added.

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