Orion fire has little effect on Norco plant operations

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2001


NORCO – Orion Refining Company feels they are moving in the right direction, despite Wednesday’s fire and sulphur dioxide release. “There’s some problems in the sulphur recovery unit, but it’s showing great improvement,” spokesman Joy Patin commented. At 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Orion reported a furnace blowout which resulted in a small fire. No one was injured in the incident, and only a puff of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide fumes was released. The unit strips sulphur from crude oil, according to Patin. Since the incident posed no off-site hazard to the surrounding neighborhoods, no precautions were recommended to the public. However, Prospect Avenue, which bisects the plant, and a portion of River Road was blocked off for less than two hours. The fumes were suppressed by a continuous water spray, which eventually disappated it, and the roads were re-opened by 3:30 p.m. Patin continued that under the plant’s new management, Orion has slashed its number of reportable events from 10 in November 2000, to nine in December, six in January and only one so far in February. The reportable incidents tally did not have a further breakdown as to how many were caused by the sulphur recovery unit which, Patin admitted, were most of them. “That system is mainly what trips the wet-gas compressor which sends the flare out,” Patin added. This time, the fire did not have even that effect. Plant personnel with hand-held air quality monitors canvassed the area surrounding the refinery, in New Sarpy and Norcoand got no chemical readings, which indicated the fume suppression worked as intended.