Oil Report

Citgo fined for 2009 Corpus Christi blast, fire

HOUSTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Citgo Petroleum Corp was fined $303,294 for a July 2009 explosion and fire at its 163,000 barrel per day (bpd) Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery that injured one worker and nearly spread toxic hydrogen fluoride over Corpus Christi.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said it issued the fine on Wednesday at a meeting in Austin.

Half of the fine will be paid directly to the commission and the other half will go to an abandoned tire cleanup program in Nueces County, where Corpus Christi is located.

One worker was permanently injured when he was caught in hydrogen fluoride vapor cloud that ignited after being released by a failed pipe in an alkylation unit.

Hydrogen fluoride is a highly toxic substance that can spread long distances as a vapor. It can cause burns to skin and eyes as well as damage heart, lungs and bones in humans.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board conducted a five-month investigation of the blast and fire.

“It’s a significant near-miss of an HF release into the refinery and into the community,” said Investigations Supervisor Robert Hall when CSB announced the results of its probe in December 2009.

Corpus Christi is a city of 300,000 residents on the south Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Citgo is the U.S. refining and marketing unit of Venezuela’s state-controlled oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). (Reporting by Erwin Seba; editing by Carol Bishopric)