Weakened pipe caused February refinery fire

Published on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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BP Cherry Point refinery officials say a crack in a pipe feeding a crude oil refining unit ignited the petroleum running through and it was likely the cause of the February 17 fire at the refinery that forced the evacuation of the entire facility and shut down operations for months.

BP crews are continuing to examine the circumstances of the fire, while Washington State Department of Labor and Industries officials investigate whether proper safety procedures were followed.

“[BP is] doing their own investigation, and we’re in constant communication with them as they proceed,” Department of Labor and industries spokesperson Elaine Fischer said.

BP spokesperson Michael Abendhoff said refinery crews have started scrutinizing pipes throughout the facility similar to the one that failed to make sure the same accident doesn’t happen again. The crude, tar-like petroleum product flowing through the pipe that cracked was under such high pressure it only needed to be exposed to oxygen to catch fire.

“It really doesn’t need anything more than the air to ignite,” Abendhoff said.

Department of Labor and Industry inspectors will most likely wrap up their investigation in a few weeks, Fischer said.

Their findings will not be released until the investigation is complete.