Huge fire breaks out at Philadelphia oil refinery

Published June 21, 2019, 11:31 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Agence France-Presse

A huge blaze erupted at a Philadelphia oil refinery early Friday, forcing residents to shelter in place and boosting gasoline prices, but there were no immediate reports of injuries, officials said.


Footage on the East Coast city’s NBC affiliate station showed plumes of smoke towering from the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refining complex. The fire could be seen for miles.

“No injuries reported,” the city’s fire department said on Twitter. “PFD members working to cool off (hose down) areas around the fire to ensure it doesn’t spread.”

The blaze in south Philadelphia broke out around 4:00 am (0800 GMT), officials said.

According to the city’s office of emergency management, PES reported that vat of butane exploded.

Officials initially asked residents and workers at businesses near the scene to remain indoors until further notice.

The shelter-in-place order, which was “precautionary due to smoke plume,” was later lifted, emergency management officials said on Twitter.

But drivers were asked to avoid the area if possible to clear the way for firefighters and emergency personnel.

Preliminary testing found no ambient carbon monoxide, combustible hydrocarbons or hydrogen sulfides. Authorities are awaiting additional test results, the city’s health department said.

Gasoline prices rose following the incident, with the benchmark futures contract for July jumping as much as 4.5 percent near 1230 GMT. At 1345 GMT, US gasoline futures were up 3.5 percent.

The PES refining complex — which has existed in some form for more than 150 years — is the largest of its kind on the US East Coast, according to its website, and processes 335,000 barrels of crude per day.

PES is a partnership between fuel distributor Sunoco, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer LP, and US-based investment firm The Carlyle Group, according to its website.