Alaska News

Fiery explosion at Valdez refinery did not interrupt operations, company says

Fire at Valdez Petro Star refinery

A fiery explosion at the Petro Star refinery in Valdez earlier this week led to the release of 5,000 gallons of fuel that was either burned up or contained, according to a final state report about the incident.

Monday’s incident, which city and state officials described as being brought under control quickly, did not lead to any interruption in the facility’s operations, plant operators said Thursday.

The fire was extinguished within an hour and no one was hurt, authorities said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation as of Thursday. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said no impacts to wildlife were seen and no sheens were observed on surrounding water.

Crowley Fuels Alaska was loading a tanker truck when the explosion and subsequent spill occurred, state officials said. The loading rack was taken out of service until inspections and repairs could be completed. It wasn’t clear how long the rack would be out of service.

Burned Crowley Truck

“The tanker truck released approximately 5000 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel as a result of the fire,” said the report, which was issued Wednesday. “An unknown amount of fire suppressant foam and water mixture used to put out fire was released onto a gravel surface.”

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.

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.

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“The investigation into the cause of the fire continues. Until the investigation, safety inspections and any necessary repairs are complete, the truck loading rack will remain offline to ensure the safety of our employees,” ASRC said in a statement Thursday. “Although the loading rack is out of service, production at the refinery has continued uninterrupted since the truck caught fire early Monday evening.”

The Valdez Fire Department and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company Fire & Rescue team responded to control the fire caused by the explosion, state officials said. Petro Star refinery personnel closed valves and built dikes to prevent the spread of diesel and contaminated water. The fire consumed an unknown amount of the diesel released from the truck. About 5,000 gallons of fuel, firefighting foam and water were recovered and transferred to interim storage tanks for treatment.

A Florida-based Crowley Fuels spokesman said in an email the company wanted to “express our appreciation for the first responders who assisted in the response.” Crowley has adjusted operations to meet demand and continues to monitor the situation closely, he said.

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

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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