Explosion rocks Texas oil refinery; 19 hurt, cause undetermined

17 February 2007: An explosion rocked the Valero McKee Refinery in Sunray, Texas Friday, injuring 19 workers and forcing the evacuation of 400 workers. Three of the injured people were in critical condition Friday night with burns, although no fatalities were reported. Smoke from the explosion and fire could be seen 60 miles away. The refinery processes 170,000 barrels of oil per day and had to be shut down as a result of the blast. Valero is the largest refiner in North America, operating 17 refineries, 16 in North America and one in Aruba.

According to fire and plant officials, the fire was believed to have started at the refinery’s propane deasphalting unit, where fuel is processed at high temperatures. The refinery is located in the extreme northern part of the Texas panhandle, about 20 miles south of the Oklahoma state line via State Route 119 and US 54. The cause of the explosion and fire, which continued to burn late Friday, is under investigation.