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OSHA Fines PES Refinery $132K for PSM Hazards

January 17, 2020

Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) was issued several citations and fine of $132,600 this week by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a massive fire and series of explosions at its refinery in Philadelphia, PA last June.

An investigation of the firm’s Grand Point Refinery complex revealed shortcomings in the site’s PSM program, including failure to establish or implement written procedures, insufficient hazard analysis, and inadequate inspection of process equipment for highly hazardous chemicals used in the process, the agency said in a release Friday.

“When employers fail to evaluate and address potential hazardous conditions associated with chemical processes, catastrophic events such as this can occur,” OSHA Philadelphia Area Director Theresa Downs said in a statement. “OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard requires that employers conduct regular inspections to ensure process equipment meets industry standards.”

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The fire and explosions occurred on June 21, 2019 after a pipe broke in the facility’s alkylation unit, releasing some 5000 lb of hydrofluoric acid (HF), according to an investigation conducted by U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Identification Board (CSB). Leaked process fluid formed a large vapor cloud that ignited.

“Since 2015, the CSB has investigated three major incidents at refineries that utilize HF for alkylation. Incidents in Superior, WI, and Torrance, CA, fortunately did not result in an HF release.” CSB Interim Executive Dr. Kristin Kulinowski said last October. “That was not the case in Philadelphia. Though the main tank holding HF was not breached, HF was a component of the process fluid released from the alkylation unit. We are lucky there were no serious injuries or fatalities.”

CSB investigators found that the piping corroded from hydrofluoric acid in the process fluid, causing the elbow to rupture faster than pipes located elsewhere in the process. 

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