Processing Magazine

Three employees die in explosion at Arkansas fuel storage facility

May 13, 2009
The Associated Press reports that an empty gasoline tank undergoing repairs exploded at a fuel storage facility in rural north-central Arkansas, killing three workers, authorities said. The tank had been cleaned previously and workers were preparing to install a new gauge on it when the blast occurred just before 2:30 p.m., said Rick Rainey, spokesman for the facility''s owner, Houston-based energy company TEPPCO Partners LP. Rainey said it was not immediately clear where the workers were at the time of the explosion. Three workers for an outside company contracted to do the repairs died in the blast, said Tommy Jackson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. Officials said C&C Welding of Elizabethtown, Ky employed the workers. Rainey said TEPPCO was in contact with local first responders and federal work safety officials about the explosion. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had federal investigators en-route for the explosion site shortly after it happened. The TEPPCO facility stores diesel and unleaded gasoline for clients and has five tanks with a total capacity of holding 250,000 barrels of fuel, Rainey said. The tank that exploded remained standing, its roof blown off by the force of the blast and its walls crumpled like a can. The explosion occurred as a series of thunderstorms rolled through Arkansas. The National Weather Service recorded no instances of lightning in the area at the time of the blast, according to forecaster Chuck Rickard in North Little Rock. There appeared to be no release of fuel or fumes in the area surrounding the tank after the explosion, said a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. He said there were no evacuations.