An explosion Thursday evening at Chevron’s Pembroke oil refinery in southwest Wales killed four workers and a fifth worker was hospitalized with serious injuries, with no health or safety risks to the public being reported.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced it is launching an investigation of the event and Chevron has made a similar announcement.
“We have immediately launched our own investigation which will run in tandem with the HSE's own investigation,” a Chevron spokeswoman said, Reuters reports. “One storage tank is out of action and another is damaged but other than that the plant remains fully operational. However, given the circumstances, non-essential work has been suspended today,” she added.
Thursday’s explosion is the second for Chevron this week and follows the explosion of a diesel storage tank in the port of Gibraltar. HSE had given the Pembroke operation one formal warning safety notice in recent years and the company rectified the problem, Reuters notes.
Greg Hanggi, general manager at the Pembroke refinery, said: “The loss of our co-workers has come as a huge shock to us all. We will take every step possible to determine the series of events that led to this tragic incident and ensure that any lessons learned from it will be integrated into the business and shared with our industry partners,” according to the New York Times.
Chevron has a $1.7 billion deal in the works with Texas-based independent Valero Energy and the 220,000 barrel-per-day Pembroke refinery, one of Western Europe’s largest, is a $730 million part of the transaction expected to close next quarter. Thursday’s explosion was having little impact in Friday’s early trading.
Raymond James analyst John Freeman said: “While this tragic event has the potential to complicate the planned sale…we would not expect anything more than a push out,” Barron’s reports. While the tragedy might encourage greater safety in the oil sector, the explosion is expected to have little impact on its business dealings.
The Chevron explosion comes just over a year after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico took 11 workers’ lives. In 2005, BP also had an explosion at its Texas City refinery and an internal investigation of the incident revealed safety deficiencies were common throughout the industry.