Gas Leak Believed to Be Cause Of Oil Refinery Explosion - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/19/08

Gas Leak Believed to Be Cause Of Oil Refinery Explosion

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Investigators took a first look into what might have caused a massive refinery explosion in Big Spring, and they now believe a gas leak is to blame for the blast. That's according to the President and CEO of Alon USA who runs the Fina refinery in Big Spring located about 105 miles southeast of Lubbock.

The blast happened just after 8 a.m. Monday. Ten hours later firefighters were finally able to extinguish the final flames. No one was killed in the explosion and only four employees were injured. One of them continues to be treated at the UMC burn unit in Lubbock.

Investigators were on the scene searching for where the gas leak originated Tuesday. Alon USA's President and CEO, Jeff Morris, says it could be months before repairs are complete here at the refinery but one promise he can make is this will not affect Lubbock's gas supply.

"We're arranging for supply for our customers from other refineries. We'll be buying product off the US Gulf Coast moving it up here so we'll be honoring all of our contracts to Fina customers and 7-11 stores in Lubbock," says Morris.

While the supply of gas is steady, what about the price in Lubbock? "I never have been able to guess gas prices that's the one thing I'm clueless on," says Morris.

Something else that has Morris stumped is finding the exact source of the explosion. "A propylene unit somehow there was a leak but don't know where it came from something odd happened. We're not sure what it is," says Morris.

More than 24 hours after this fiery explosion, progress is being made. The company has set up a temporary headquarters at their local union building.

While the smoke may have cleared, investigators now face a daunting task - searching through piles of rubble in the hopes of finding the source of that leak.

Other employees are surveying the damage caused by the explosion. The blast shattered windows at the refinery and blew off sections of its roof.

"It's just going to be hard work day and night. I think will take a few months to get running again," says Morris.

But even amongst millions of dollars of damage, Morris says they are blessed. No one was killed in Monday's explosion and only four employees were injured. All of whom will make a full recovery.

"That's a true test to skill and training. These are instantaneous decisions. You have seconds not minutes. Men in blast made the right decisions.  I'm very proud of them," says Morris.

As for the rest of the community in Big Spring, things are already pretty much back to normal. Big Spring schools were back in session Tuesday. All damage to the schools was repaired overnight before the students returned to class.

2/19/08
Big Spring Refinery Explosion
Take a look at some of the pictures of Monday's refinery explosion in Big Spring sent in by viewers.

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