Alaska News

Valdez refinery halts fuel loading after tanker truck loading diesel explodes, officials say

A tanker truck that caught fire at a Valdez refinery Monday afternoon halted fuel-loading activities at the facility on Tuesday, state officials say.

The truck was loading diesel when the explosion occurred, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

The fire at the Petro Star Refinery was extinguished within an hour and no one was hurt, authorities said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The refinery was not damaged in the fire, according to a statement from Arctic Slope Regional Corp. Petro Star Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of that Utqiaġvik-based Alaska Native corporation.

State environmental officials were at the refinery Monday to make sure contaminated liquids from the fire — a mix of water, firefighting foam, and petroleum products — were properly handled, said Anna Carey, a Valdez-based spill prevention and response manager with DEC. Petro Star was storing the liquids in a tank for treatment, Carey said. She couldn’t immediately say how much petroleum had spilled.

The refinery was not loading trucks on Tuesday, she said.

Emergency crews responding to reports of a fire and explosion just after 5 p.m. arrived at the refinery at approximately 5:10 p.m. and discovered an active fire involving a tanker truck inside the refinery’s loading area, according to an update late Monday from the City of Valdez. The fire was contained to the truck and loading rack area.

Petro Star is working to conduct a thorough review to determine the cause of the fire, an ASRC statement said. The company “is thankful to the Valdez Fire Department and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company Fire Department for their services and quick efforts to minimize damage and prevent any injuries.”

ASRC did not respond to requests for additional information Tuesday.

Photos circulating online showed a massive black column of smoke rising from the refinery against the Chugach Mountains. Valdez, which sits on Prince William Sound, is at the terminus of the trans-Alaska pipeline operated by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

The Valdez fire chief requested mutual aid from Alyeska, which sent two trucks to help put out the fire, city officials said. The road leading to the refinery reopened around 5:50 p.m. after fire personnel deemed the fire under control, and the last firefighting units left the scene just after 7:30 p.m.

The nearly 30-year-old refinery produces 60,000 barrels a day of product including jet fuel, marine diesel, heating fuel and turbine fuel, according to the company’s website.

Similar incidents occurred at the refinery in 2008 and 2019, when trucks taking on fuel at the facility caught fire.

[Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported, based on information from the City of Valdez, the approximate time emergency crews arrived at the refinery. They arrived around 5:10 p.m., not around 5:20 p.m.]

Zaz Hollander

Longtime ADN reporter Zaz Hollander is based in the Mat-Su and is currently focused on coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska. She also covers the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.

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