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Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Accident Report Detail

Accident: 14391494 - Eight Employees Killed, 18 Injured In Refinery Explosion

Accident: 14391494 -- Report ID: 0625700 -- Event Date: 05/05/1988
InspectionOpen DateSICEstablishment Name
10047886605/05/19882911Shell Oil Company
At 3:37 a.m. on May 5, 1988, an explosion occurred in the catalytic cracking unit (CCU) of an oil and gas refinery. The explosion apparently was the result of corrosion of an 8-inch vapor line. This vapor line, under 270 psi pressure, ran from a 10-inch header that originated as the main overhead vapor line from the depropanizer column. The apparent instantaneous line failure released approximately 17,000 pounds of hydrocarbon vapor for approximately 30 seconds. A possible ignition source could have been the unit's superheater furnace. The damage pattern indicated that the explosion was probably an aerial explosion with an epicenter located in the area between the depropanizer and the CCU control room. Employees #1, #2, #4, #5, and #7 were found fatally injured inside the CCU control room as a direct result of the blast. Employee #3 was found fatally injured approximately 30 feet outside the west side of the CCU control room as a direct result of the blast. Employee #6 was fatally injured while he was exiting the GO-1 South control room. The negative pressure wave of the explosion apparently created a vacuum that caused the east brick wall of GO-1 South to be "sucked" toward the CCU and then to fall on Employee #6. Employee #8 was on the northwest side of the reactor-regenerator vessels in the CCU and was critically injured as a result of the blast. The rest of the employees, #9 through #26, were in different units in the refinery at the time of the explosion. All received varying injuries to different degrees as a direct result of the explosion.
Keywords: furnace, wall, flammable vapors, crushed, explosion, corrosion, pipeline, process safety, pressure release, refinery
Employee # Inspection Age Sex Degree Nature Occupation
1 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
2 100478866 Fatality Other Occupation not reported
3 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Bruise/Contus/Abras Occupation not reported
4 100478866 Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
5 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Other Occupation not reported
6 100478866 Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
7 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
8 100478866 Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
9 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Bruise/Contus/Abras Occupation not reported
10 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Other Occupation not reported
11 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
12 100478866 Hospitalized injury Burn/Scald(Heat) Occupation not reported
13 100478866 Fatality Other Occupation not reported
14 100478866 Fatality Other Occupation not reported
15 100478866 Fatality Other Occupation not reported
16 100478866 Hospitalized injury Other Occupation not reported
17 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Foreign Body Ineye Occupation not reported
18 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Bruise/Contus/Abras Occupation not reported
19 100478866 Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
20 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Foreign Body Ineye Occupation not reported
21 100478866 Fatality Other Occupation not reported
22 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Cut/Laceration Occupation not reported
23 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Bruise/Contus/Abras Occupation not reported
24 100478866 Non Hospitalized injury Bruise/Contus/Abras Occupation not reported
25 100478866 Fatality Other Occupation not reported
26 100478866 Fatality Concussion Occupation not reported

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