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A chemical reactor at an oil refinery in Delaware caught fire Friday and billowed thick black smoke that was visible for several miles, officials said.

The fire at the Delaware City Refining Company in New Castle County, which began at 1 p.m., was under control by 3:17 p.m. Five fire departments battled the blaze at the refinery, the Delaware City Fire Department said.

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PBF Energy said a fire inside a catalytic cracker, which converts crude oil into gasoline and other refined products. The refinery experienced “an operational incident that resulted in flaring” at about 12 p.m., the company said. The refinery has a capacity of 190,000 barrels a day.

The fire is about 100 yards away from the company offices. Firefighters doused the building with water as flames were shooting out.

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The refinery has had two previous incidents under previous ownership that resulted in losses of life.

In July 2001, a 415,000-gallon tank exploded, killing worker Jeffrey Davis and injuring eight others. On top of that, more than one million gallons of sulfuric acid leaked from the tank farm, with about 100,000 gallons spilling into the Delaware River. The environmental catastrophe killed an estimated 2,400 fish and 240 crabs. Four years later, Motiva Enterprises, the location’s owner at the time, settled a joint federal and state lawsuit for $12 million.

In November 2005, when Valero owned the refinery, two contract employees, John Lattanzi and John Ferguson, died of asphyxiation from nitrogen while performing maintenance work on top of a reactor.

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