News World Fire rips through largest oil refinery on US east coast

Fire rips through largest oil refinery on US east coast

philadelphia-oil-refinery-explosion
The fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex started in a butane vat. Photo: AAP
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Explosions and a blaze at the largest oil refinery on the US East Coast have sent a fireball into the sky and shaken homes, though authorities report only a few minor injuries.

The fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex was deemed contained and controlled but continued to burn late Friday afternoon, said Craig Murphy, deputy fire commissioner.

Five refinery workers were treated for minor injuries, and nearby residents were asked to stay inside.

The fire broke out about 4am.

Video showed the enormous orange blast bursting into the sky about 20 minutes later.

The cause of the fire was still unclear. Three explosions, felt kilometres away, went off as the fire worked its way through the tangle of pipes carrying fuel across the complex.

It happened at the Girard Point refinery, one of two at the PES complex in southern Philadelphia.

The fire happened at a tank containing a mix of butane and propane. The blaze was still being fed by a main, but it was unsafe for workers to access the valve to shut it off. If firefighters extinguished the blaze, the gases would continue to bleed into the atmosphere.

oil-refinery-explosion
Three huge explosions were felt several kilometres away from the refinery complex. Photo: AAP

The 150-year-old oil refining complex processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily, PES says. The refinery turns the crude into petrol, jet fuel, propane, home heating oil and other products.

It was the second blaze at the refinery this month, following a June 10 fire in which no injuries were reported.

Petrol prices in the Northeast could rise over the next few weeks as a result of the explosion, but an increase isn’t likely to last long, said Claudio Galimberti, a refining analyst at S&P Global Platts.

Thick black smoke billowed across the city after the fire started.

It is unknown whether the explosions will cause any financial strain on the oil markets.

“This is obviously not a good thing to happen in a jittery market, but US refined product demand has been relatively weak,” said Jim Burkhard, vice president for oil markets at IHS Markit.

“So this is a disruption, but it’s probably not going to cause major problems in a market that is generally well supplied.”

-AAP