Lightning struck an electrical transformer at the Valero refinery in Texas City this morning, causing a fire.
The lightning strike occurred just before 6:20 a.m. CST, said Officials with Texas City Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Firefighters on the scene said there is currently oil burning inside of a container at the facility.
Firefighters can’t douse the fire with water due to the potential danger from electrical shock, said Derek Duckett, Texas City Emergency Management Coordinator. They are now containing the fire to the transformer and are allowing the blaze to burn itself out.
There were no injuries in the incident and the OEM said there is no danger to the community. However, the agency is requesting that all non-essential personnel avoid the area around the Valero facility until further notice. The National Weather Service says thunderstorms could linger through Friday in the Houston area.
The Texas City Emergency Management team released the following statement Thursday morning:
“Lightning struck an electrical transformer at the Valero Texas City Refinery and it is currently on fire. A black smoke plume can be seen from the burning transformer oil. Fire and power company personnel are on scene. There is currently no danger to the public, but we ask that all non-essential personnel avoid the area around the Valero Refinery on south loop 197. We will advise if further action on your part is needed. Thank you.”
Here’s an overview of the Texas City refinery from Valero’s website:
“The Valero Texas City Refinery provides significant feedstock flexibility and product diversity to Valero’s Gulf Coast operations. The plant dates to 1908, originally built to process 1,500 barrels per day of Oklahoma crude oil. The refinery has gone through continuous upgrades and expansions since then, including major upgrades from 1955 to 1970 when the total throughput of the refinery was increased from 40,000 to 130,000 barrels per day. In 1996, gas oil hydrotreater and residual oil solvent extraction units were commissioned along with significant revamps to the fluid catalytic cracking unit and the No. 3 crude unit. Since acquiring the refinery in 1997, Valero has invested more than $750 million in expansions and upgrades at Texas City. Most recently, the plant completed a major expansion consisting of a new delayed coker and a gasoline desulfurization unit. These expansions and upgrades give the facility a great deal of feedstock flexibility, resulting in a higher gross margin than a conventional refinery. The new units allow the crude units to run lower-value, heavier-gravity crude feedstocks to produce a large slate of low-sulfur, clean fuels.”