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Superior, Wisconsin-based Superior Refining Company LLC is facing $83,150 in fines for failing to control the use and release of highly hazardous chemicals after an explosion and fire injured several employees, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Investigators cited the refinery for eight serious violations of OSHA’s process safety management procedures.

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“Ensuring the mechanical integrity of critical equipment used during the refinery shutdown operation could have prevented this incident,” said OSHA Eau Claire Area Office Director Mark Hysell. “Superior Refining Company LLC has been working cooperatively with OSHA to ensure a comprehensive process safety management program is implemented at the facility before resuming production.”

The initial explosion occurred April 26 in the Superior Refining’s Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) at 10 a.m. while the refinery was shutting down the FCCU for maintenance and inspection, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB).

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To date the CSB determined the following:
• The explosion took place during a planned maintenance shutdown of the refinery FCCU.
• The incident occurred during a scheduled break time and many workers previously in the unit before the explosion had moved either into blast resistant buildings or away from the process unit.
• One piece of debris from the explosion flew about 200 feet, and struck a large, nearby, aboveground storage tank containing about 50,000 barrels of asphalt. The side of the tank was punctured, resulting in the release of over 15,000 barrels of hot asphalt into the refinery.
• Approximately two hours after the release, the asphalt ignited, resulting in a large fire.
• As a result of the explosion, 36 people sought medical attention, including eleven refinery and contract workers who sustained OSHA recordable injuries. In addition, a large portion of Superior, WI, ended up evacuated.

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