Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Citgo Agrees to Record Fine for Worker Safety Violation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Citgo Agrees to Record Fine for Worker Safety Violation

Article excerpt

From Staff, Wire Reports WASHINGTON _ Citgo Petroleum Corp. agreed Thursday to pay a record $5.8 million to settle alleged worker safety violations stemming from a Louisiana refinery fire that killed six people earlier this year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the record $5.8 million settlement at the same time it announced the alleged violations, which called for penalties of $8.2 million.

Along with the record payment, Citgo has agreed to implement corporate-wide process safety management programs and help fund a new petroleum industry training program, OSHA said.

At issue were alleged safety violations uncovered in an investigation into a refinery blast March 3 at a plant near Lake Charles in southwestern Louisiana. Six workers died from the blast and six others suffered burn injuries, OSHA said.

The blast occurred when one of the plant's three catalytic cracking units, which are used in refining gasoline, exploded and touched off a 2-hour fire. The explosion rocked homes up to a mile away.

Citgo, in a statement issued from its Tulsa headquarters, denied the alleged safety violations and noted that the settlement did not constitute a finding of fault or an admission of liability.

"We at Citgo regret this tragic incident, and we continue to work with the Occupational Safety and Health Adminis- tration to further enhance safety," said Ron Hall, president and chief executive officer.

The company agreed to settle, Hall said, so Citgo "can move forward as quickly as possible in continuing to implement enhancement programs for the safety and health of all of its employees and contractors."

OSHA said the blast occurred as a cracking unit was being brought back on line after a seven-week shutdown for maintenance.

During the startup operation, a drainage valve at the bottom of a large capacity pressure vessel was improperly closed, allowing water to accumulate in the vessel, OSHA said.

When superheated oil was put in the vessel and mixed with the water, a steam explosion occurred, rupturing the vessel, government safety officials found. …

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