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Editor's note: This story has been updated. The preliminary report released Thursday confirms that the incident started in a "fluid catalytic cracking unit," a piece of equipment that separates gasoline from crude oil. Key features of the rebuild include: A modernized facility with the same capacity and ability to produce a full slate of products to service the region, including asphalt, gasoline and diesel. A federal agency says a massive refinery fire that forced the temporary evacuation of homes in the coastal Wisconsin city of Superior in April was caused by an explosion … Donate today. Judge Daniel Tolan ruled that the company could be liable for punitive damages in the case as well. Investigations into the April 2018 incident are ongoing. "If (the company) did not affirmatively order them to re-enter, (the workers) would not have been in such close proximity to the explosion and more than likely would not have suffered such large injuries," Tolan said. "We look at all causes of the incident, not just the technical failures. The incident caused a temporary evacuation of some city residents due to the presence of hydrogen fluoride, a highly toxic chemical that can be hazardous to human health if released. For more information, contact public@csb.gov. For questions or comments about our programming, contact WPR’s Audience Services at 1-800-747-7444, email to listener@wpr.org or use our Listener Feedback form. All Rights Reserved. Federal investigators say a failed valve created conditions that led to an explosion and fire last April at the Husky refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. Investigations into the April 2018 incident are ongoing. You make MPR News possible. © 2020 by Wisconsin Public Radio, a service of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But they were instructed to return to work. The initial explosion occurred in the refinery’s Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) at approximately 10:00 am while the refinery was shutting down the FCCU for periodic maintenance and inspection. Husky, which does business in Wisconsin as Superior Refining Company, had asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing that the contracted turnaround work at the refinery was inherently dangerous and that the company hadn't been negligent. They were working for contractors Evergreen North America and Jamar Contractors as part of a five-week "turnaround" to conduct maintenance at the refinery. Superior, Wisconsin, August 2, 2018: Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a factual update into its ongoing investigation of the April 26, 2018, explosion and subsequent fires at the Husky Superior Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. To date the CSB has determined the following: In addition to the factual report, the CSB also released an animation of the events leading up to the explosion of the FCCU. "So in the FCC unit you don't want that combustion to occur, and so it's vitally important to keep those levels separate, you keep the air away from the hydrocarbons and vice versa.". Contractors Claim Husky Energy Was Negligent, Failed To Protect Workers. For technical questions or comments about WPR’s website, streaming or other digital media products, please use our Website Feedback form. The refinery typically employs around 200 people year-round. The explosion took place during a planned maintenance shutdown of the refinery FCCU. The incident occurred during a scheduled break time and many workers previously in the unit before the explosion had moved either into blast resistant buildings or away from the process unit. Seven men from Texas and Louisiana filed the civil suit in August 2018. More than 15,000 barrels of hot asphalt spilled into the refinery, and two hours later ignited a large fire. CSB Releases Factual Update on Explosion and Fire at Husky Refinery Located in Superior, Wisconsin, Drivers of Critical Chemical Safety Change, Process Safety Management for the 21st Century, Emergency Planning and Response (Preparedness), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU0dIK5EJYI, Information on the CSB's October 29th public business meeting, CSB Sending a Team to Fatal Incident in NC, Website design & development by Americaneagle.com. Stay informed with WPR's email newsletter. Husky Energy has been working on its $750 million rebuild of the Superior refinery. They also claim the company didn't properly train or supervise contractors and failed to issue adequate safety equipment. Debris from the explosion came within 150 feet of the refinery's hydrogen fluoride tank. The refinery was shutting down in preparation for a five-week turnaround when an explosion occurred, sending several people to area hospitals with injuries. Keep updated on the latest news and information. Husky Refinery Explosion Injuries The explosion in the FCC unit triggered a chain reaction, according to the board's report. The animation can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU0dIK5EJYI. Investigators will develop a root cause analysis of this incident based on evidence collected during the investigation. In all, 36 people sought medical attention. A "slide valve" in the unit was supposed to keep the gasoline from coming into contact with air, according to Mark Wingard, an investigator with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The judge found that those accusations, if proven at trial, would constitute serious negligence by the company. Litigation is still pending in a separate class action lawsuit filed against Husky by Superior residents. Superior, Wisconsin, August 2, 2018: Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a factual update into its ongoing investigation of the April 26, 2018, explosion and subsequent fires at the Husky Superior Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. The men alleged Husky was negligent and failed to warn workers about dangers at the refinery. Canada-based Husky Energy said in its second-quarter earnings statement last week that the refinery is not expected to restart until 2020. The workers say the company ordered them to go back into the refinery even after there were loud knocking sounds and alarms sounding that had caused the plant to be evacuated. The plumes of toxic asphalt smoke prompted an evacuation in the three miles directly around the refinery and ten miles to the south. The CSB investigation is ongoing. One piece of debris from the explosion flew about 200 feet, and struck a large, nearby, aboveground storage tank containing about 50,000 barrels of asphalt. Husky Superior produces asphalt, gasoline, diesel and heavy fuel oils. Debris from the explosion came within 150 feet of the refinery's hydrogen fluoride tank. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released an update Thursday on the explosion and fire at the Husky Energy refinery in Superior in late April. A gift of $17 makes a difference. Sign up now! Investigators continue to collect data and evidence from the site. Superior refinery explosion issues evacuation. "We will be looking deeply to understand all the causes that led to this," said board member Kristen Kulinowski. A plume of darks smoke rises from the refinery fire on April 26. 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 910 | Washington, DC 20006. The board's investigation is ongoing and a full report likely won't be ready until 2019, at the earliest. A plume of darks smoke rises from the refinery fire on April 26. In addition, a large portion of Superior, Wisconsin was evacuated. Debris from the explosion flew about 200 feet, and hit a large above-ground storage tank containing about 50,000 barrels of asphalt, puncturing the side of the steel tank. When the blast occurred in a tower near an asphalt tank shortly after 10 a.m. on April 26, 180 Husky employees and 600 contract workers were inside the facility preparing for a planned shutdown for servicing and inspection next week. The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency whose mission is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical incidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. But most workers were on break in blast-resistant buildings, a factor that likely prevented serious injuries or fatalities. A final report, including facts, analysis, conclusions, and recommendations will be issued at the end of the investigation. "Obviously if you mix air and gasoline it's going to combust, that's why our cars work," Wingard said. Litigation is still pending in a separate class action lawsuit filed against Husky by Superior residents. Related Video Animation of April 26, 2018, Explosion and Fire at the Husky Energy Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin The Superior refinery isn't expected to reopen for at least 18 months, Husky said in a recent earnings report. "They may be preventable for different reasons. ", "Through it's 20-year history, the Chemical Safety Board has investigated over 100 incidents, and we've found that they're all preventable," Kulinowski said. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Construction was shut down for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The agency’s board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Bob King/Duluth News Tribune. The workers are seeking damages in excess of $10,000 for medical costs and lost wages as well as pain and suffering in the case. Contract workers who were injured in a 2018 explosion at Husky Energy's Superior refinery can make the case that the company may have been negligent when it ordered them back into the facility after alarms had sounded, a judge ruled.

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