The refinery in Wynnewood, Oklahoma is owned and operated by Gary-Williams Energy. They purchased the plant in 1995 away from the Kerr-McGee Corporation. On a daily basis the plant is known to process nearly 50,000 barrels of crude oil, which is 5,000 more barrels daily than was produced by the former ownership.
In 2006 a large explosion erupted in the plant followed by an ongoing fire. Nearly 150 people had to be evacuated, but no one was injured. The problem was caused by a leak within one of the plant's processing units that allowed acid to seep out. It ignited, and set the blaze in motion.
Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) claimed that the fire could have been easily prevented if the refinery had been up to code on safety regulations. They blamed the plant executives for not keeping the facilities in proper working order. A fine of $154,800 was suggested to be imposed upon the facility, and they were charged with willfully violating safety regulations by not properly maintaining their equipment. In response, the CEO of Gary-Williams Energy stated that the company would be doubling their efforts to improve safety practices and ensure nothing like this could ever happen again.
A second massive fire raged in Wynnewood Refinery in April of 2008. It began when lightning struck a large storage tank that contained nearly 50,000 barrels of flammable materials. Following an initial explosion, the blaze spread rapidly and consumed a large quantity of fuel within the facility. Flames from the blaze reportedly reached as high as 60 feet into the air.
Fire fighters arrived on the scene quickly, but for safety purposes were forced to wait until barrels of diesel fuel had burnt out before they could begin the process up putting out the flames. City fire crews worked together with the refinery fire fighting team to eventually get the situation under control. At one point, the fire appeared to be dying down, but it soon flared up again and became even larger than it was originally. The renewed blaze raged for more than two days. During the battle with the fire, plant officials shut down operations at the refinery in the hopes of slowing the spread of the fire. Damages were contained within the barrels of fuels and storage containers, and none of the processing equipment was hurt in the incident.
Before the fires took place, the Wynnewood refinery had another major issue to contend with. Many of the products that were used within the facility had been made out of asbestos, a material that was commonly found in refineries because of its ability to endure intense heat. Although asbestos was used regularly for many years, eventually it was proven to be toxic, and had to be removed from the site. Workers who spent time in the plant before these products were disposed of were put at risk of exposure to this hazardous substance, which is known to cause damage to the respiratory system and the disease, mesothelioma, a sometimes deadly form of cancer. See your doctor immediately if you were among the people who may have been exposed to asbestos.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.