Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

Valero Oil Refinery came close to ‘catastrophic incident’

Published

on

EXCLUSIVE REPORT

 

A POTENTIALLY ‘catastrophic incident’ took place at Valero’s Pembroke Oil Refinery last year involving leaking gas and an ignition source, the Pembrokeshire Herald can reveal.

​​This newspaper has been contacted by a number of workers at the site who have told us that it is only ​’pure luck’ which prevented leaking gases from​ being blown into an ignition source, believed to be a furnace, which could have led to another lethal incident at the plant.
Valero have confirmed that they are working with statutory authorities who are investigating the event, which occurred ​on November 3​0​ last year. It involved the Alkylate Iso-Stripper, which creates Alkylate – a premium component of petrol that has exceptional anti-knock properties and is clean burning. The Iso-Stripper is a high risk area of refining, and uses either sulphuric acid or hydrofluoric acid as a catalyst for its chemical reactions.
The oil refinery’s management told The Herald that it is working with ‘continued co-operation’ with regulators, and highlighted in a statement that ‘no personnel were injured’ and that ‘there was no impact on the community’​.​
Valero, which says it is one of the leading employers in south Wales, added that they are unable to comment further during the period of investigation.
HSE INVESTIGATES
A Health & Safety Executive spokesperson told The Herald in a prepared statement: “We are aware of an incident at the Valero Energy Limited Pembroke Refinery in November 2017 which was reported to the Health and Safety Executive under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013).
“We can confirm that the incident took place on the Alkylate Iso-Stripper, and is being investigated.
“No enforcement action has been taken, though the investigation remains ongoing.”
PUSHING THE PLANT HARDER
Our source​s​ working at the refinery told The Pembrokeshire Herald, on condition of anonymity, that the incident last year was due to the refinery being pushed harder than before. This, combined with the ageing infrastructure at the site, lead to the close call.
He told us: “They have increased output which puts more strain on the equipment.​”
Another employee at the site, who also did not wish to be named, confirmed this. He said that since the refinery was bought from Chevron, it is being stretched and running ​20-30% harder than before.
This, combined with a lack of maintenance, is making it an ‘accident waiting to happen’, he added.
RECENT LEAK OF GAS
Valero confirmed that last month’s activation of emergency sirens was in response to another leak of gas at the plant. But it is not currently known from which part of the refinery.
Readers contacted The Pembrokeshire Herald by telephone​ and social media on the morning of March 29 concerned after hearing a warning sound, which started at exactly 8.01am.
On contacting the refinery the Herald was initially told by a security worker: “We have no information at the moment, we are not sure if it’s a test or not.”
Looking to clarify his answer, our reporter asked: “So you are not sure if it’s a test or a real emergency?”
The Herald was told: “That’s right”
It is understood that there was confusion due to previous false alarms.
Later this newspaper received a statement from Valero spokesperson and Refinery Public Affairs Manager, Stephen Thornton, who said: “At 8:00 am on 29th March 2018, the alarm sounded on site due to identification of a minor gas leak.
“Operations responded promptly to isolate and de-pressure the line to stop the leak.”
SAFETY A ‘GUIDING PRINCIPLE’
In a statement prepared by Valero for The Pembrokeshire Herald, the company said: “Safety is the guiding principle for all that we do at Pembroke Refinery, and Valero takes strong exception to any suggestions otherwise. As one of Europe’s largest and most complex refineries, our highly skilled workforce at Pembroke Refinery operates according to comprehensive and rigorous management systems and standards of safety.
Valero does not comment on operational activities at Pembroke Refinery, however all our activities are conducted within approved regulatory permit limits. All refinery work is undertaken according to stringent regulatory, industry and company standards that ensure the continued effective integrity of the plant, regardless of working capacity. Our advanced and sophisticated operational, inspection and maintenance procedures at the refinery are underpinned by a safety culture fostered across all our personnel, focused on recognising and eliminating hazards before they occur.
“In addition to our own focus on safety, Valero also actively works alongside public bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive, emergency services, the local authority and other agencies to manage risk. This includes Valero’s continued cooperation with regulators regarding an ongoing investigation into an event that occurred in November 2017. No personnel were injured during this incident and there were no impacts on the community, however we are unable to comment further during this investigation.
“Anyone making enquiries regarding Valero’s operations, including our site alarm system, should ask to speak to a member of Valero’s Policy, Government & Public Affairs Department.
“All calls received at the refinery are dealt with by our dedicated security team who follow protocol of not confirming refinery operational details, but will pass your details on if requested.​”​

Akylation unit: The location in the refinery where ‘dangerous incident’ occurred

OIL REFINING – A HAZARDOUS ENTERPRISE

Refinery fire: 2011 accident tragically claimed four lives

It is not the first time that Valero have had the safety of their workplace questioned, nor the first time an incident has affected the Pembroke refinery.
Valero were fined £400,000 at Swansea Crown Court after an incident involving a walkway collapsing and an employee left hanging from ropes at their refinery in Pembroke. It was found that Valero, the American oil company which purchased the Pembroke site in a £447m deal in March 2011, failed to follow procedure and carry out a comprehensive risk assessment on the access tower of which the gangway collapsed seriously injuring a worker.
It was said in court that the maintenance contractor of Valero had their suggestions ignored over the potential risks of the access tower, as they raised the point that there was a ‘potential fatal accident waiting to happen.’ Valero were also seen to give inadequate training and instructions to employees, regarding the safe operation of the tower and gangway.
The incident took place on March 5 2012, as David Thomas, an operator at the refinery, was making his way towards an unloading oil tanker via the gangway of the access tower. The walkway suddenly collapsed and he was dropped 3.5 metres. Mr Thomas, 55, was left swinging from wire rope that had wrapped round his legs, but, as a keen rock climber, was able to distribute the weight from his legs by gripping a cross beam. Despite this, he suffered a dislocated knee as well as lacerations and fractures. Mr Thomas was released from hospital after 17 days, but soon developed arthritis, and ultimately didn’t return to work.
It was deemed that three other related incidents at the refinery previous to the gangway accident, in August 2010, February 2011 and September 2011, were poorly investigated and that a proper checklist assessment was not carried out.
At the time of the infamous explosion in June 2011, which resulted in four fatalities, the refinery was still operated by Chevron, yet the deal to sell the refinery to Valero had already been organised. In November 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service ultimately decided against pressing charges of corporate manslaughter.

News

Pembroke Dock: Police track down van after terrifying experience for runner

Published

on

POLICE have tracked down two men who were in a van which allegedly followed a woman down a cycle path when she was on her morning run in Pembroke Dock.

Nina Sherratt warned women who may be running in the Pembroke Dock area to be mindful of the van after her terrifying experience.

During her run, the van pulled up and men inside started shouting at her, before turning around and following her on a cycle path.

Thankfully, another man passing in a car stopped to check on her, noticing the odd behaviour of the van, and the police were called.

The incident happened on Saturday morning (Jun 23) at around 9:30am.

Nina said in a Facebook post: “I was out this morning on Pembroke Dock top road, a large white van passed me with two men in, shouting and jeering out of the window.

“They then turned around and came onto the cycle path behind me. It followed me. I didn’t know what was happening but thankfully a man in a passing car stopped as he could see this wasn’t right.

“The van then turned back off the cycle path in the opposite direction. I can’t believe this actually happened and have contacted the police.

“At first, I couldn’t get my thoughts together but the kind stranger that had pulled over had stopped with concern unsure of their intentions. This wasn’t a bunch of youngsters messing about it was an older man 60 plus with a male passenger.”

Nina concluded: “The police have managed to track down the person/persons and the vehicle and have spoken to them. So at least this will prevent this from happening to anyone else. Keep walking/running girls!”

Continue Reading

News

Hoax call wastes RNLI time and resources following large search

Published

on

A HOAX call left RNLI crews wasting vital time and resources yesterday morning (Jun 23) as they searched for a vessel which they believed to be taking in water.

St Davids RNLI, Angle RNLI and a Coastguard helicopter were involved in the search for nearly four hours.

St Davids RNLI said in a statement on Facebook: “At 06:20 this morning our Tamar launched on service to join in a large-scale search for a vessel which was reportedly taking in water.

“We proceeded at full speed to a position south of Skokholm island and commenced a search of a designated area, which was planned by Milford Haven coastguards.

“Also involved with search was Angle lifeboat and a coastguard rescue helicopter from St Athan.

“After searching for several hours, the coastguards received information that this was a HOAX call.

“This call had tied up vital rescue resources and come at a large cost.

“With this informatio,n all SAR assets were stood down. Our Tamar was rehoused and ready for service at 10:00.”

Among the comments on Facebook, the hoax phone call has been called ‘disgraceful’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘disrespectful’.

Continue Reading

News

Police call for vigilance to report illegal raves

Published

on

DYFED-POWYS POLICE is asking farmers and local landowners to be on the alert over the next few months for warning signs of any illegal gatherings planned for their land over the summer.

Gatherings – such as illegal raves – can cause considerable anxiety to the community and if they are not dealt with swiftly, they are difficult to stop or otherwise control, due often to the sheer numbers of persons involved and the safety aspects surrounding breaking up such an event.

Superintendent Robyn Mason said: “There is little doubt that these type of events are very well planned, organised and that local knowledge is important in drawing down the main group to a particular ‘vulnerable’ field, or area of land which has been targeted previously as a suitable venue.

“Farmers, landowners and local communities are encouraged to report any suspicious activity immediately to the Police; this may be an unusual numbers of vehicles, especially camper vans, vans or trucks in the locality, illegal trespassers who may be doing ‘recce’ of sites in advance of the event.

“I can assure local communities that Police will take the appropriate action to deter illegal gatherings and deal robustly with any criminal offences discovered or disclosed.”

Members of the public are also urged to be vigilant of persons who approach landowners or enquiring for land, in the guise of hiring for apparently acceptable activities such as gymkhanas and scouts/guides events.

Please contact Police on 101 with reports on any suspicious activity.

Continue Reading
News48 mins ago

Pembroke Dock: Police track down van after terrifying experience for runner

POLICE have tracked down two men who were in a van which allegedly followed a woman down a cycle path...

News22 hours ago

Hoax call wastes RNLI time and resources following large search

A HOAX call left RNLI crews wasting vital time and resources yesterday morning (Jun 23) as they searched for a...

News2 days ago

Police call for vigilance to report illegal raves

DYFED-POWYS POLICE is asking farmers and local landowners to be on the alert over the next few months for warning...

News3 days ago

Man who gets ‘a sexual buzz’ from touching bottoms avoids prison

A HAVERFORDWEST man who cannot stop grabbing women’s bottoms has today (Jun 22) received a suspended prison sentence. John Robert...

News3 days ago

Haverfordwest: Retailer and Pembrokeshire Council in war of words

PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has become embroiled in a war of words with a discount retailer just days before a deadline...

News3 days ago

Couple details mistakes by Health Board leading to baby’s death [VIDEO]

HYWEL DDA UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD has been the subject of fierce criticism in a scathing from the Public Services Ombudsman...

News3 days ago

Tenby: Traffic restrictions coming into force next month

THE TENBY Pedestrianisation Scheme – which restricts traffic from inside the town walls – starts on Monday, July 2, and...

News3 days ago

Haverfordwest: Police investigating burglary from church

DYFED-POWYS POLICE are investigating a burglary which occurred sometime between midnight on Friday, May 24 and Sunday, May 27. Sound...

News3 days ago

WW2 veteran in helicopter flight to comrade’s funeral

A WORLD WAR TWO veteran took a helicopter flight for a 560 mile round trip from his Pembrokeshire home to...

News3 days ago

Royals set to visit Pembrokeshire during summer visit

AS PART of their annual summer visit to Wales, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be...

Popular This Week