* Worker undergoes surgery for injuries
* Chemical Safety Board launches probe
* Other units operating at refinery
(Updates worker condition, investigations)
HOUSTON, July 20 A fire continued to burn in an
alkylation unit at Citgo Petroleum Corp's 163,000 barrel per
day (bpd) refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Monday, while
other refinery units were still operating, a company spokesman
A worker, Gabriel Alvarado, 34, severely burned when the
blaze broke out on Sunday morning underwent surgery at a San
Antonio hospital on Monday, said sources familiar with his
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said on Monday it was
sending investigators to the refinery. Investigators from the
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality were already in Corpus Christi.
The fire in the hydrogen fluoride alkylation unit, which
makes high-octane gasoline blending components, was contained
by water cannons that surround the unit. Residual feedstock
left in the unit was the source of the continuing fire.
A Chemical Safety Board spokesman said the board was most
concerned about the release of hydrofluoric acid, which can
cause burns, heart, lung and bone damage in humans.
"We take any incident in an HF alkylation unit very
seriously," Horowitz said. This incident seriously injured one
person. We don't have any evidence of injuries due to
hydrofluoric acid, but we do plan to determine how much HF was
Citgo said its focus was assisting Alvarado and his
"Our primary concern right now is for the recovery of
Gabriel and to support his family in their time of need," said
Kevin Ferrell, vice president and general manager of the Corpus
The president of the local United Steelworkers union, which
represents workers at the refinery, said on Sunday employees
had repeatedly pointed out problems to Citgo.
"The workers at this refinery have identified hazards the
company has failed to fix," said John Warner, president of USW
local 13-1647. "We have met with Citgo and told them there were
problems and if they weren't fixed it was going to get bad. And
it got bad."
A Citgo spokesman declined to comment about Warner's
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has
issued 40 citations for violations of work safety regulations
at the Corpus Christi refinery since 1999.
Citgo is the U.S. refining and marketing subsidiary of
Venezuela's state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.
An alkylation unit makes high-octane blending components
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)