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Chevron fire in Mississippi refinery cracking unit leaves one worker dead

11.15.2013  | 

The fire occurred at 2 a.m. local time at the 330,000-bpd plant on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The cracking 2 unit has since been shut, said Terry Jackson, Jackson County deputy director of emergency services.


(Updated paragraph 2 with details on the deceased.)


Chevron had a furnace fire in the “cracking 2 area” at its Pascagoula refinery in Mississippi that caused the death of one worker.

Refinery operator Tonya Graddy was later identified as the deceased. Graddy, who had been an operator for five years, was one of the operators standing outside the unit when the explosion occurred, according to plant manager Tom Kovar.

The fire occurred at 2 a.m. local time on Friday at the 330,000-bpd plant on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, Kurt Glaubitz, a San Ramon, California-based spokesman for the company, said in an e-mailed statement.

The cracking 2 unit has been shut, Terry Jackson, Jackson County deputy director of emergency services, said by phone. The rest of the refinery is not shut, he added.

Refinery personnel responded to the fire and secured the site, Glaubitz said. He wouldn’t say if the fire has been extinguished, nor whether any portion of the refinery has been shut down in response. 

Allison Cook, a Pascagoula-based spokeswoman for the company, identified the location of the fire in a message on a community hot line.

The refinery produces 130,000 bpd of gasoline, 68,000 bpd of diesel and 50,000 bpd of jet fuel, according to a company website. It also produces bunker fuel, liquefied petroleum gases and other products.

The plant processes heavy, high-sulfur crude. In August, it imported 278,000 bpd of oil from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. Two of its shipments from Colombia were the highest-density crudes imported to the US that month, according to Energy Information Administration data.

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During the course of 30 years of hands on field experience gained across major Hydrocarbon Processing industries, I had participated in fact finding teams and also gone through several investigation reports.
The moment overconfidence or complacency builds up among the staff with a biased opinion that nothing will happen at my site because we know what we do and we have been doing this job for so many years, an incident is bound to happen.
What we need in the industry is not to look at how long we have been into the job so far but exactly how we continue to comply with our HSE standards and implement day to day operating instructions. We also need to ensure that check lists and SOP's are adhered to in letter and spirit. For that matter even SOP's need to be reviewed and necessary changes to be incorporated as and when modifications are done at existing facilities.
When coming to the world of accidents there is no exception whether it is a multinational company spread all over the world or just a start up facility.


The most trascendent comment was made by the experienced friend Kamlesh Vakil 11.15.2013. It shall be strictly taking into account by Chevron and official authorities.
I said as a professional most than 40 years devoted to engineering and construction of oil facilities.

Hirak Dutta

We must know the root cause of such a major explosion inside a furnace. Too many accidents are taking place and this one involves a fatality.
Unless proper investigation is carried out and its findings are shared I am afraid we won't be able to prevent happening of such incidents.
I suggest that any such incident that is picked up by Hydrocarbon Processing must end with sharing investigation report.

Luiz Diogo de Vasconcellos

Some hints for those concerned wih avoiding accidents:
• Proceedings of the Ethylene Producers Conference – Good source of information about accidents and prevention programs
• EPA e OSHA, from USA government – Results of investigations with ample distribution of data.
• U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, or Chemical Safety Board – CSB, federal agency with reports available on the NET.
• The ammonium industry divulges through AIChE, information on safety and maintenance – look for the yearly PROCEEDINGS of AIChE; some of their data o about BFW treatment apply to other industries as well.
• Refining industry divulge information about safety in operation, yearly, in the “books” of NPRA and Q&A and sometimes also on API publications.
• Electrical industry have a good source of information through EPRI covering corrosion in steam generation and distribution systems, power generation systems , turbines and utilities in general.
• National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors cites 2.445 accidents just in 1997 which resulted in 18 deaths and 75 injured people. Human error has been associated with 12 out of 18 deaths. Errors in water treatment were considered the main cause of accidents with boilers and pressure vessels. Only 82 of the total number of accidents were with unfired pressure vessels.

A.Aziz Ansari

Even experience and skilled man can make error but need to be addressed and covered through system to avoid fatal accidents. In case of BP Texas refinery incident where more strict system one should expect in place but common lapses were identified like incomplete operation check on startup, operators not responded to high level alarms, change of safety valve setting not recorded; presuming the presence of experienced staff. There might be some more elements are missing from the system which are still not considered in such giants company like BP and others while rest will follow their system.


It is not something related to experience alone. There are several case where even in spite of having experienced people at site, accidents and near-miss incidents had happened. It is a question of sticking to a safe work culture, maintaining constant vigil towards any abnormal changes happening at the job environment at site and keen monitoring of plant operating parameters in the control room and finally the management's overall approach towards ensuring systems and procedures compliance in addition to timely follow up of the implementations of so many recommendations that come out of lessons learnt exercises.

A.Aziz Ansari

We are using these words that all accidents can be prevented by implementation of HSE management system including process safety management, however the results does not match when we compare our area companies system with such accidents.

Carlos Navarro

The work in a refinery has to much Risk, maybe is necessary an additional Inspection, for detect probably hidden risk in the area.

Kamlesh Vakil

as ex Chevron Texaco employee I can only say Chevron requires to place more experience people at site. When I retired in 2003 experience level was very low. Experience people took retirement package

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