Valero Safety Enhancements began before CSB Report
Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO) had implemented safety measures throughout its refining system on its own in advance of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) report released today about a fire early last year at Valero’s McKee Refinery in Texas, Valero officials said today.
“Well before the CSB issued its report on the fire and recommendations for changes, Valero had begun its own investigation and developed new safety initiatives throughout its system,” said Mike Mayo, Valero’s Director of Corporate Safety. “These steps include the creation of a corporate Process Safety Management and Reliability Department to develop and oversee safety and related process reliability measures at all our refineries.”
The CSB’s findings are consistent with Valero’s own investigation of the root causes of the fire that took place on Feb. 16, 2007. It was determined that ice formed in a “dead-leg” pipe, or a remaining pipe from a system no longer in use. The ice caused a rupture in the pipe, which led to a propane leak that ignited and caused the fire at the refinery’s Propane Deasphalting Unit. The CSB recommended removal of those unused pipelines – a process that Valero has already initiated as part of its internal safety measures.
Valero also replaced McKee’s damaged Propane Deasphalting Unit with a new, redesigned unit that offers upgraded control systems – including remotely operable shut-off valves – designed to reduce the risks of such incidents.
Also as a result of lessons learned from the McKee fire, Valero is re-evaluating the fireproofing of structures such as pipe racks at its refineries, and by year-end will have completed switching from using chlorine to a safer bleach solution in order to treat cooling water.
The steps are part of Valero’s long history as a refining industry safety leader. Valero is an active participant in the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), with 10 of Valero’s 16 refineries designated as VPP Star Sites – the highest safety designation in the program. Only 13 other refineries across the nation have earned the Star Site status.
Valero has an employee injury rate well below the industry average, and has reduced reported injuries by 56 percent since its involvement in the VPP program.
“Safety is our top priority and an ongoing effort for Valero,” Mayo said. “Our goal is to eliminate incidents like the fire at McKee altogether, which is why we continually take steps to guard against and mitigate the risks associated with our processes.”
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