Officials at Husky Energy had known for 10 years that there was a problem with the valve identified by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) as the likely source of a massive explosion at the Superior, WI refinery in 2018, according to a Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) report based on 1,300 pages of documents obtained from OSHA.

The April 26, 2018, Husky Energy Superior Refinery explosion prompted city and county officials to declare a state of emergency. About 27,000 residents were evacuated due to air-quality concerns from the thick, black smoke and for safety concerns posed by a hydrogen fluoride tank at the refinery.

Thirty-six people suffered explosion injuries including lacerations and penetrating trauma from flying debris. Eleven of them were hospitalized.

CSB investigators determined that the explosion originated in the fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) -the same piece of equipment identified as the source of the 2015 ExxonMobil Refinery explosion in Torrance, CA. Shrapnel from the explosion inside the FCCU at the Husky Superior refinery pierced an asphalt tank. When the leaking asphalt found an ignition source, a massive fire engulfed the refinery.

Erosion inside the Spent Catalyst Slide Valve allowed air to flow forward into the hydrocarbon side of the FCCU leading to the explosion, the CSB determined. Refinery officials were first made aware of the erosion issues 10 years prior to the explosion, according to  Occupational Safety and Health and Administration (OSHA) records obtained by WPR.

“According to interviews and records, holes were found in the spent slide valve on two past turnarounds (April 2008 and April 2013), and those interviewed indicated that they were aware that this valve could leak because of catalyst erosion on the leading edge of the valve gate and seat ring,” one of the documents cited in the report states. But the refinery continued to use the valve and did not alter the schedule for repair and replacement, the report reveals. Related

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