Oklahoma Boiler Explosion Under Investigation

One worker died and another was critically injured Sept. 29 in the explosive at CVR Energy Inc.'s Wynnewood refinery. Three months ago, authorities urged oil and gas operators in the state to take part in a safety stand down because of rising fatalities.

A worker died and another worker was critically injured Sept. 29 in a boiler explosion at a refinery in Wynnewood, Okla., and the facility's owner, CVR Energy, Inc., has launched an internal investigation into the incident. It occurred at about 6:20 p.m. as operators were restarting the boiler, which had been temporarily shut down during a turnaround.

"I would like to express my deepest sympathy for the employees and families affected by this tragedy," Jack Lipinski, CVR Energy's chief executive officer, said in a Sept. 30 news release posted on the Sugar Land, Texas-based company's website. "We are conducting a thorough investigation of the incident and cooperating fully with OSHA and the Oklahoma Department of Labor. Our focus is to determine how this accident occurred and what steps must be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. We remain committed to providing a safe working environment for our employees and contractors," he said.

The boiler alone was damaged, and there has been no evidence of environmental impact, according to the release, which said no damage estimates were immediately available.

It said the turnaround resumed Saturday at the refinery, which CVR has owned for less than a year. It added Wynnewood Refining Company to its family of companies when it bought Gary-Williams Energy Corporation on Dec. 15, 2011. The Wynnewood refinery has a capacity of 70,000 barrels per day and makes gasoline, diesel fuel, military jet fuel, solvents, and asphalt.

"We want to thank Wynnewood and Garvin County emergency response teams for their rapid response and assistance," Wayne Leiker, vice president and refinery manager, said in the release. "We had immediate support from the community, local clergy, the city, and first responders. I especially want to thank our employees and contractors for their support, hard work, and dedication during this difficult time."

Oklahoma DOL, federal OSHA, and MCEPS (the Mid-Continent Exploration and Safety Network) encouraged oil and gas companies operating in the state to take part in a stand down in July 2012 that was meant to bring attention to a significant increase in fatalities in their industry. "We are asking for companies to take 30 minutes or longer to conduct job site inspections and train employees on job site hazards and safety standards. With nine deaths in Oklahoma since October 1, 2011, as well as a drilling rig fire resulting in three hospitalizations, safety should become the highest priority," said David Bates, area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello reminded attendees at a June 21 stand-down meeting that Oklahoma DOL has a free Safety Pays OSHA Consultation program. "It is non-punitive, and we must be invited in, but we have the resources to help you identify hazards and to help you correct those hazards," Costello said. "We want your employees to go home the same way they came to work."

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