In addition to the Chemical Safety Board's release of the analysis on the 2014 Sulfuric Acid release at a refinery in California, it also "closed the book" on the Anacortes refinery 2010 explosion. The CSB's analysis on the Sulfuric Acid release can be found here. And while the final report on the 2010 explosion was released earlier this year, there were some legal questions being investigated. The final report can be found here along with recommendations from the American Petroleum Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others.
Refinery incidents are of concern not only to the public, but for those of us that work in and support the industry. Yes, the processing of crude oil to supply the market with gasoline, diesel, kerosene, fuel oil, and other petrochemicals used as precursors for plastics, pharmaceuticals, consumer products, etc., includes processes that are considered hazardous due to the pressures, temperatures, and additional materials involved. The products produced are flammable and under certain conditions can result in damaging explosions. (It is helpful here to remind individuals that the operation of their vehicle engines requires controlled mini-explosions that result in the push on the piston which ultimately is transferred to the axles which propel the vehicle down the road.) Thus, it is imperative that those of us in the petroleum industry be aware of the potential dangers, and hazards in our industry and work to make them safer.
There is good news, part of the reason that incidents like these make the news is that they are less frequent. And, while these are tragic, they result in all of us taking time to review and follow the investigations with the purpose to ensure that events like these don't happen in the future. Over the past 25 years, I have personally seen huge improvements in the safety culture, the safety processes, and changes to make the processes inherently safer to operate.
Our challenge is to continue to improve the overall safety of the processes, and means of detecting unseen hazards before they reach the level of catastrophe. We have to work to create inherently safer precursors as well. We also have to realize that any industrial process (and even simple things like walking from place to place) comes with some level of risk. The key is to understand and minimize these risks - so that each and everyone of us can go home at the end of the day.