Officials say they are grateful no one was seriously hurt or killed in Monday’s explosion and fire at the Irving Oil Refinery in Saint John, N.B.
As many as five workers were treated in hospital for minor injuries following the incident, which happened around 10:15 a.m.
Kevin Scott, chief refining and supply officer with Irving Oil, said there was a malfunction in a diesel-treating unit, which removes sulfur from diesel.
“We believe we had an explosion from the reports and then a subsequent fire from that,” Scott told reporters at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
Scott said the unit was quickly shut down and the rest of the refinery was taken offline as a precaution.
He said it took several hours to extinguish the fire and, at times, they were letting it safely burn itself out.
As many as 3,000 workers were on site at the time, officials said, with most taking part in the refinery’s annual turnaround project.
“The fact that no one was hurt seriously or killed during this incident, I think, is something to be very thankful for,” Don Darling, the mayor of Saint John, told reporters.
District Chief Mike Carr with the Saint John Fire Department, who also manages the city’s Emergency Measures Organization, said there was no need to evacuate residents as the fire was contained to the one unit at the refinery.
#SJEMO Update: The refinery unit has been stabilized and EMO is no longer recommending that area residents shelter in place.
The Saint John Fire Department has begun releasing some equipment and crews from the site, and Grandview Avenue has been re-opened to all traffic.
Those living near the refinery were asked to stay inside as a precaution but Carr said there were no air quality concerns besides the smoke from the fire itself.
Scott said it is too early to know what caused the malfunction or when the refinery will be back online, but they do have a contingency plan in place.
“We have finished product in tankage at the refinery and then further out in our system in marine terminals,” he said, “and relationships with other suppliers as well that we will draw on to try to minimize the impact on any of our customers.”
#SJEMO Update – As part of the normal stabilization process on site at the Refinery, Saint John EMO is advising the public that there is a possibility for flare ups to occur. Crews are onsite and monitoring.