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Chevron Pascagoula Refinery Fire Comes Day After Unrelated Milford, TX Incident

The Chevron Corp.-operated West Texas Liquefied Petroleum Gas System pipeline located near Milford, TX, that exploded Thursday morning resulted in a fire that was still burning late Friday afternoon, according to the company, which on Friday morning was also dealing with an unrelated refinery fire in Pascagoula, MS, that resulted in one death and one injury.

The refinery fire broke out at 2 a.m. Friday morning at the Cracking II Processing Unit in southern Mississippi, according to the company. The fire killed one Chevron employee and injured another. Chevron fire crews responded and the flames were extinguished later in the morning.

"All employees on-shift at the refinery during the incident have been accounted for. We have confirmed one fatality of a Chevron employee, Tonya Graddy; her coworkers referred to her as 'Toni,'" Chevron said Friday. “She has been an operator with five years of service. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family."

Chevron added that it has secured the affected area with barricades and is assuring that the area is safe for investigators and other necessary personnel. "We have begun the process of investigating this incident and are cooperating with appropriate regulatory agencies," Chevron said.

Opened in 1963, Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery has grown to be the corporation's largest U.S. refinery and one of the top 10 petroleum refineries in the United States. The facility employs 1,610 and has the capacity to process up to 330,000 b/d of crude oil to produce gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other products.

In Milford, Chevron said late Friday afternoon the fire at the West Texas LPG pipeline continued to decrease in size as residual product was flared and burned-off. "Work is also underway to remove product from and depressurize the nearby 14-inch LPG pipeline," Chevron said. "Later [Friday], crews will ignite flares that will serve to reduce the amount of product in the 14-inch pipeline. These flares may be visible to residents but will not pose a risk."

Chevron's 14-inch pipeline runs just feet away from the 10-inch punctured pipeline and was kept flowing because the constant flow cooled the line, lessening the potential of a secondary explosion at the site.

Local unified command had established a 1.5-mile evacuation zone at the site, and approximately 700 people in the town of Milford were asked to evacuate, Chevron said. The local Red Cross was mobilized to assist those impacted in the region. Since air quality permits it, Chevron said residents are being allowed brief visits home to retrieve medications and pets under escort by local officials. Since residents will not be able to return to their homes permanently tonight, overnight accommodations are being provided for residents in local hotels, while local law enforcement continues to monitor and patrol homes in the evacuation area.

The pipeline, which runs 2,295 miles from southeast New Mexico to Mont Belvieu, TX, ruptured Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. CST after a crew performing excavation activities hit the pipe (see Daily GPI, Nov. 14). Five workers at the site were immediately evacuated and all employees are accounted for with no reported injuries, the company said.

The town of Milford is located in Ellis County, approximately 50 miles south of Dallas.

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