Worker at Valero’s Memphis refinery dies

A worker at Valero Energy Corp.’s Memphis refinery died Monday after being exposed to a mixture of propane and hydrofluoric acid.

A contract worker and two firefighters also were hospitalized, in noncritical condition.

The Valero worker died at the hospital, said Martha Deacon, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Deacon did not have details on the time or cause of the death, and the employee’s name was not released.

A statement from Valero said that a small sight glass failed at the plant’s alkylation unit Monday morning.

“There was no expected environmental impact to neighboring communities from this incident, and refinery operations have not been affected,” the company said. “There was no explosion and no fire at the plant. The refinery has notified appropriate regulatory agencies. The accident remains under investigation.”

A sight glass is a tube or window that allows workers to monitor fluid levels within a tank, pipe, pump or boiler.

In March, three contract workers were seriously burned in a flash fire at the Memphis plant, and Nicolas Cuevas later died of his injuries.

The contract workers, employed by JV Industrial, were performing work on a flare drum related to a maintenance turnaround at the plant when the fire occurred.

A relative of Cuevas has filed a multimillion-dollar wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Valero. The suit claims that there was a failure to ensure that there were no hazardous or flammable gases in a flare line and that there was a failure to provide timely firefighting assistance.

At the time, Memphis Fire Department spokesman Wayne Cooke said the fire had been extinguished before firefighters arrived.

A Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection done after the fire cited the plant for nine serious violations and fined it $63,000.

The violations were related to the process of safety management of highly hazardous chemicals and control of hazardous energy, according to the inspection report.

Valero’s Memphis refinery produces regular and premium gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and petrochemicals. It has a capacity of 195,000 barrels per day of light, low-sulfur crude oil.

Valero acquired the plant in 2005 and has since spent more than $245 million upgrading it, according to the company’s website.

It sits on 250 acres along the Mississippi River’s Lake McKellar and has more than 300 employees.
San Antonio-based Valero is North America’s largest independent refiner.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

An employee and a contractor at Valero Energy Corp.’s Memphis refinery were injured Monday morning when a sight glass ruptured.

Two firefighters also were injured when they were exposed to the hazardous substance.

A statement from Valero said that a small sight glass failed at the plant’s alkylation unit.

“There was no expected environmental impact to neighboring communities from this incident, and refinery operations have not been affected,” the company said. “There was no explosion and no fire at the plant. The refinery has notified appropriate regulatory agencies. The accident remains under investigation.”

A sight glass is a tube or window that allows workers to monitor fluid levels within a tank, pipe, pump or boiler.

One worker was transported to a hospital in critical condition. The other worker and the firefighters were taken to a hospital in noncritical condition.

Memphis Fire Department spokesman Wayne Cooke told Bloomberg News the firefighters and workers were exposed to a mixture of propane and hydrofluoric acid.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that the substances are believed to be propane and hydrochloric acid. The newspaper said that the firefighters were in noncritical condition and being treated for chemical exposure.

In March, one worker was killed and two were injured during a flash fire at the Memphis refinery. The workers, employed by JV Industrial, were performing work on a flare drum related to a maintenance turnaround at the plant when the fire occurred.

Valero’s Memphis refinery produces regular and premium gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and petrochemicals. It has a capacity of 195,000 barrels per day of light, low-sulfur crude oil.

Valero acquired the facility in 2005 and has since spent more than $245 million upgrading it, according to the company’s website.

It sits on 250 acres along the Mississippi River’s Lake McKellar and has more than 300 employees.

San Antonio-based Valero is North America’s largest independent refiner.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

jhiller@express-news.net