Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 6, 2012

Findings in on tragic refinery blast

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — It appears a deadly combination was at the heart of a boiler explosion weeks ago at the Wynnewood refinery that tragically resulted in the death of two employees.

An official with CVR Energy, Inc. said Wednesday an internal investigation into the explosion on Sept. 28 has been concluded and findings are now being released to the public.

“The investigation is complete and we’ve given it to OSHA,” said Angie Dasbach, vice president of corporate affairs, referring to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“The cause of the explosion is a combination of human error and inconsistencies with standard operating procedures and operator training,” she said.

“We’ve developed a list of corrective actions that are now being implemented for the whole facility.”

Dasbach stresses the two employees, one killed at the scene, 34-year-old Billy Smith of Pauls Valley, and another who was critically injured before later dying, Russell Mann, 45, of Davis, had nothing to do with causing the explosion.

“They were not (at fault),” she said. “They were involved in a faulty start up process.

“The investigation found no mechanical issue with the boiler.”

There was also no documented issues with the boiler reported to the company since its owned this refinery.

The investigation determined the boiler explosion, which occurred when the operators were attempting to light the main burner, was the result of a couple of issues.

The first was the fuel bypass valve feeding the main burner.

According to the investigation, that burner was opened too far, which did not allow for the lighting of the burner.

Also the length of time the fuel was introduced to the boiler resulted in the firebox filling with a fuel and air mixture that exceeded what is present in a normal boiler startup procedure.

Employees were the first to learn of the investigation’s findings during a series of meetings at the refinery throughout Wednesday.

“This was a very tragic incident, and we continue to communicate with employees,” Dasbach said. “They were first to be told about the findings.

“We wanted to figure out what happened in this explosion and see that it never happens again,” she said about employee safety being top priority.

“I’ve been with this company for nine years, and safety has always been number one.”

The explosion also had no connection to the refinery’s turnaround, according to Dasbach.

A turnaround is a periodic shutdown of the operations allowing for necessary maintenance and upkeep of operating units.

As for the corrective measures, the company is in the process implementing a few.

They include reviewing and modifying operating procedures for boiler startup operations, modifying the operator training curriculum to support new and existing standard operating procedures and incorporating leadership expectations into operator training.