BP reports fire at Texas City refinery

A fire broke out Tuesday in a section of BP’s Texas City refinery, a facility that cast a shadow over the oil giant after 15 workers were killed in a 2005 explosion there.

Officials say there were no reports of injuries in Tuesday’s blaze, which was brought under control about 90 minutes after it was reported at 1:30 p.m. The fire sent a large plume of smoke south towards Galveston, Texas City Homeland Security Coordinator Bruce Clawson said.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the fire was reported in a residual hydrotreater unit at the plant. The unit processes heavier refined products, Dean said. The fire was extinguished at 3:05 p.m, Dean said.

“Crews will remain on scene to guard against reignition,” Dean said. “The residual hydrotreater is shut down, but the rest of the refinery continues to operate and produce products for customers.”

All workers have been accounted for, Dean said.

A cause for the fire has not been determined. It remains under investigation. Hydrotreaters are the units often used to remove sulfur from crude oil or gas products.

Earlier this month, BP announced that it planned to sell the  refinery to Marathon Petroleum Corp. in a $2.5 billion deal that would allow BP to refocus its strategy and distance the British oil company from the shadow of the disaster at the plant seven years ago.

Marathon Petroleum, based in Findlay, Ohio, spun off last year from Houston-based Marathon Oil, now an independent oil and gas company. Spokesman Shane Pochard declined to comment on Tuesday’s fire or say whether it could impact the deal with BP.

The price tag for the refinery was lower than expected, given BP’s investment of about $1 billion in plant upgrades over the last seven years, but analysts have said it made sense for both companies. The refinery can process more than 450,000 barrels of oil per day.

For BP, the Texas City deal and the sale earlier this year of its Carson, Calif., refinery are in step with its plans to focus on refineries with the best access to crude from Canadian oil sands and the Bakken shale in North Dakota, which have more favorable prices and better access to retail markets.

The planned sale would turn a painful page for the refinery following the 2005 disaster.

BP has resolved most of the civil litigation and government citations that resulted from that accident, and has said it will be responsible for any fines related to the 29 remaining citations, which it is still negotiating with the Department of Labor. Marathon has agreed assume responsibility for any needed corrective action related to the unresolved safety citations, the companies have said.

Chronicle reporter Robert Stanton contributed to this report.