Big Spring Refinery
An oil refinery was built in Big Springs, Texas in 1928, largely due to the efforts of oil tycoon Joshua Cosden. That plant is still in operation today, and Alon USA Energy Inc. runs the facility. Currently, the plant produces a daily output of 61,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Alon USA is best known for their FINA name brand gas stations, which are commonly found at 7-11 convenience stores.
In February of 2008, the Big Spring plant experienced a major explosion early on a Monday morning. While there is some debate over the exact cause, many people claim that it was caused by a gas leak that ignited. The effects of the explosion were felt for miles. Home owners who lived long distances away from the refinery reported having their windows shattered by the initial impact. The blast itself was so intense that it damaged the facility itself, and threw debris on to the nearby Interstate 20. At least one vehicle was hit by the debris, which resulted in minor injuries to the driver.
The blast injured four people who were working at the facility. It's likely that number would be much higher, if it were not for the fact that the incident occurred on a holiday and most employees were off for the day. Fire fighting crews showed up immediately and worked diligently to bring the resulting blaze under control. As the battle continued, Interstate 20 was shut down and local elementary schools were evacuated for the day. While the plant sustained some damage, the gas producing facilities were not harmed in the fire. The refinery had to partially shut down while repairs were made to the equipment that was destroyed.
This fire is the worst single incident in the plant's history, but it was not the first major incident that has occurred there. Years before, this refinery, like so many others, featured products that contained asbestos in them. For many years this was an accepted and common material that had a variety of industrial uses, but further research show it to be a heath hazard. Exposure to the substance has been linked to respiratory illnesses, and a cancerous disease, mesothelioma. The effects of these problems have been known to be fatal, so plant workers who were employed while these products were in use are strongly encouraged to seek medical attention.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.