Small refinery fire quickly contained

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2005

A fire at Tesoro Alaska's Nikiski oil refinery left one production unit that produces jet fuel shut down.

The unit will be down for an unknown period of time, said Steve Hansen, vice president of refining for Tesoro.

The fire was small and happened in an isolated area, Hansen said, adding there were no injuries and that it was not necessary to evacuate employees. There was no significant damage to the plant, he said.

Hansen said the cause of the fire is unknown.

The refinery has about 178 employees.

The fire occurred just after 11 a.m. Tesoro's fire brigade and the Nikiski Fire Department responded to the fire.

The fire department responded with five units and 17 firefighters.

No flames were showing when the fire department arrived, said Warren Isham, assistant fire chief for the department.

Tesoro's Nikiski refinery is capable of producing up to 70,000 barrels per day of crude oil. Jet fuel, diesel and gasoline are produced at the refinery.

Hansen said about 65,000 barrels per day of crude oil were produced Thursday.

There are 149 oil refineries in the United States, six of them in Alaska, according to the Energy Information Administration. Tesoro's refinery is the second largest in the state.

The refining industry has a better safety record than other manufacturing operations, said Ron Planting, economist for the American Petroleum Institute.

Assistant Chief Isham said firefighters with the department have additional training in fuel spills and hazardous fires because of the four industrial plants in the community. Responding to fires at these facilities is second nature, he said.

Each of the Nikiski plants has its own fire units. The fire department acts as backup to these fire brigades, he said.

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