The Marathon Petroleum Company in Roanoke County, VA, is up and running after the plant shut down at 2 p.m. Monday after an oil tank malfunction caused a spark in a high octane gas area.
Police and firefighters evacuated homes and businesses within a half mile of the plant in case there was an explosion.
Workers fixed the device that measures how much oil or gas is inside tanks, and that solved the problem. Marathon eliminated any electric hazard that could cause a spark by grounding and bounding the high octane tank.
The Roanoke County Fire and EMS were on the scene for over 7 hours after the initial call.
“When that happened they immediately shut down all operations, all electrical service and called us,” said Roanoke County Fire Chief Rick Burch.
According to emergency officials, every tank has a device that measures the quantity of product inside it and prevents vapors from entering the atmosphere but that device malfunctioned in one of the tanks.
“What that has created is a vapor area between the product and the bottom of that dome and that is where the potential problem is with that vapor area,” Burch said.
Burch said any kind of spark near the tank could have been dangerous given the layout of the facility.
“There’s massive building size tanks of oil or gasoline then you veer to the left and there’s an abandoned building and railroad tracks and stuff, but the majority of it is tanks and an area where trucks will come and fill up,” Franklin said.
The fuel tank is about 40 feet tall and holds 40,000 barrels of fuel when full. At the time of the incident, the tank was less than 1 percent full with about 2100 barrels. Crews worked to empty the tank so they could inspect it once the vapors settle.