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Location: Galveston County, Texas, United States

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blooger Test

This is a test to see if the word utility for blogger is working.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Daily Report Sample

Ports of Houston & Texas City

Port of Texas City














Approximately 2.5 million bbl. crude

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Citgo Refinery: Four Workers Burned

Citgo Petroleum, subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, a Venezuelan owned company in the U.S. has been mired with an onslaught of problems over the past two years regarding OSHA health and safety violations with it's failure to properly protect workers at all three of it's fuel refineries located throughout the United States.

  • Corpus Christi, Texas Refinery
This recent incident at it's Corpus Christi, Texas refinery underscores the fact that OSHA fines and penalties alone will not prevent future injuries or even worse fatalities. Maybe an upper management of change in conjunction with it's the corporate philosophy will provide workers with the protection that is needed.

— Hot crude oil burned four Repcon Inc. contractors working at Citgo's east plant crude and vacuum unit between Nueces Bay and Buddy Lawrence Drive about 10:40 a.m. Friday.

Repcon, Inc is a turnaround contractor with offices and clients located throughout the Gulf Coast with a history of numerous safety awards. Most recently back in June 2007, the company was admitted into OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) Mobile Workforce Star Demonstration Program. Additionally, it was awarded by the National Petroleum and Refiners Association's for Meritorious Safety Performance - 0.0 for 89,803 hours worked at the Corpus Christi Refinery of CITGO Petroleum Corporation back in 2005.

  • Lake Charles, Louisiana Refinery
Ironically, a week ago it was reported that OSHA issued a whopping 15 citations a short distance across the Texas border at the Citgo Lake Charles, Louisiana refinery with three citations alleging willful failure to follow federal safety requirements and 12 citations alleging serious violations.

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - Federal safety investigators have proposed $169,000 in fines against Citgo Petroleum Corp.'s refinery in Lake Charles on allegations of failing to protect employees from hazardous working conditions.

The OSHA federal violations that occurred between August-December 2007 are compounded by the fact that the Citgo Lakes Charles Refinery let go between 500-700 contract workers strangely coinciding with the culmination of the OSHA investigation. So now all the preventive and corrective maintenance is solely undertaken by the limited resources of the plant's 150 full-time maintenance workers.

HOUSTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Citgo Petroleum Corp cut more than 500 contract maintenance workers in late December at its Louisiana refinery as part of a program to increase returns to corporate parent Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, according to sources familiar with the company's refinery operations.

  • Lemont, Illinois Refinery
Dissecting the timeline even further which includes it's Midwestern refinery, Citgo several weeks ago agreed to pay fines concerning workplace conditions at the Lemont, Illinois refinery where OSHA found multiple violations of federal workplace safety .

CITGO has agreed to pay $155,250 in fines and already has taken corrective action to eliminate unsafe working conditions.

  • Contract Workers
No amount of OSHA fines will ensure that a worker returns home safely to his family. It's especially difficult for contractors who are not Citgo refinery workers but outsiders working at the plant. This is where a big part of the problem arises especially if one is employed by a contractor. With limited resources, OSHA is not able to scrutinize contractors like it does with a major refinery like Citgo.

A majority of the injuries and fatalities that occur at refineries on the Gulf Coast plague contract workers in contrast to the higher paid and and highly sought after hourly full-time refinery workers. In this regard and in all fairness to Citgo these problems are not isolated to only one company but the entire breadth of the industry.

For example, from first hand experience working for a contractor, it is quite common if one says anything concerning health and safety you will be immediately replaced with another warm body eager body to step up to the plate. This is just a fact of life and hard to comprehend by anyone who works a regular 9-5 -40 hour/week job. In contrast, refineries operate around the clock 365 days year and any downtime adversely effects production. The product has to keep moving constantly.

  • Additional Federal Violations
In addition to violations of federal laws concerning worker health and safety, Citgo was found guilty on June 2007 in violations of the Clean Air Act at it's Corpus Christi Refinery. Since delisting with the Security Exchange Commission back in 2006, Citgo Petroleum has been plagued with problems in addition to the ongoing friction that the lone shareholder, Venezuela president Hugo Chavez has had with the Bush administration.

  • The Future
Citgo Petroleum appears to be besieged with a myriad of problems in the United States in conjunction with the the Exxon victory in the U.S. court ordered freeze of $12 billion assets of it's Venezuelan parent company PDVSA. To exacerbate this, the interim balance sheet of 2007 shows a loss of 6.7 billion dollars in Citgo sales.

Since selling it's
Lyondell-Citgo refinery in Houston, Texas and expiration of the contract with Southland's 7 Eleven gas station chain, Citgo refinery production fell 20% to 1.33 million bpd.

It's no wonder that that the company is hemorrhaging with an overwhelming amount of federal violations as not being able to keep up with it's obligatory regulatory obligations. So now the human resources whether it be contract workers or full-time refinery employees of the corporate structure is at grave risk concerning health and safety in the aftermath.

Photo Credit
by EKavet

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Refinery Explosion Cause: No Investigation

The Chemical Safety Board, the lead U.S.A. federal agency tasked with investigating and determining the root causes of accidents similiar in severity to the recent massive Big Spring ,Texas refinery explosion will not be able to investigate the incident due to under staffing and under funding.

Horowitz said the Chemical Safety Board would normally investigate Monday's incident as well, but with the recent sugar refinery explosion in Georgia and other incidents they're still investigating, they simply don't have the resources.

This troubling development puts our nation at great
economic and national security risk. Especially since the national petroleum
refining infrastructure is the fuel that maintains and provides the means for the United States in maintaining social and global economic stability.

A national movement is now underway in the United States to capture the attention of federal legislators concerning the ongoing problem concerning failed governmental policy in addressing current meager workplace safety standards that place our industrial sector at risk.

Leading worker organizations today called on the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency standard on combustible dust. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed a petition with the U.S. Department

For the reader to understand the scope of the problem, one must understand that OSHA's function is solely to determine if safety and health violations were not followed and then to initiate fines and penalty procedures.

So who is tasked with finding the root cause of accident? This is where the U. S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) enters the picture. This independent federal agency is the cream of the crop when it comes to determining the root cause of major accidents.

The problem is under staffing and under financing for the 16 professional investigators that are tasked with deploying and investigating accidents for the entire United States. Last year in 2007
there were 937 incidents with 31 of the accidents that were serious enough in nature to require deployment of the investigators. Yet only eight of the incidents had CSB investigators deployed in determining the root cause of the accident.

Would it be acceptable to have 31 airline crashes and only eight
accidents where the National Transportation Board and FAA deployed?. The
CSB is being funded with appropriations from Congress with less than $10
million dollars. About the same amount it would cost for a new running trail, expanded tennis facilities, a pedestrian bridge, and other amenities at a local park in Houston, Texas.

City officials and local parks advocates Tuesday launched a $10 million fund raising campaign for a new running trail, expanded tennis facilities, a pedestrian bridge and other amenities at Memorial Park.

So now we stand at the abyss where our entire nations workforce and industrial infrastructure rates in the same importance as leisure time activities?

Photo Credit:
by Texas-Fire Mookie

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sugar Refinery had Explosion Weeks Earlier

An interesting and revealing development in the tragic Imperial Sugar Refinery explosion investigation is that the facility experienced a previous less serious explosion weeks earlier with no injuries.

Selk said no one was injured in that explosion. They do not know all the details about what happened, but he said they were interviewing the company's managers.

Yet details from an Associated Press news report mentions that a company spokesman can't recall the details of the earlier explosion at this time.

Steve Behm, a spokesman for Imperial Sugar, said he did not know any details of the earlier dust explosion mentioned by Selk

Thats the main problem with these plant explosions that occurring with regularity in the United States. If there are no fatalities or injuries that require hospitalization, then the accident goes unreported to the Occupational and Safety Health Administration officials and the root cause is not investigated until someone is killed or three workers are hospitalized.

In contrast, deployment of the the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Team, an independent federal agency, to an accident scene is carried out according to three main criteria:

  • Severity of the accident consequences, such as deaths, injuries, environmental impact or property damage

  • Nature of the facility and materials involved

  • Potential effects of the accident on members of the public

An update on the cause of the earlier explosion from a company spokesman:

The earlier blast was caused by a small piece of metal that passed through a machine used to grind granulated sugar into finer particles, Behm said. The metal fragment caused a spark that got sucked into a dustcollector and ignited the dust inside it, he said.

The rooftop dust collector had ventilation panels that opened to relieve pressure from the small blast, minimizing the force of the explosion, Behm said. Damage to the dust collector was minimal, and it was quickly repaired, he said.

"The equipment in there functioned correctly and did its job," Behm said.

In addition to explosion ventilation panels there are additional components in protecting a facility from a dust explosions such as infrared heat detectors that can detect temperatures down to 400 degrees centigrade. For example, an extinguished match is 500 degrees centigrade, which astonishingly is all the heat required in ignition for many combustible dusts such as sugar (350-400 C). In the end result, this is the equivalent destructive force of gunpowder in a confined space.

Examples of Combustible Dusts

  • metal dust, (aluminum and magnesium)

  • wood dust

  • plastic dust

  • biosolids

  • organic dust, (such as sugar, paper, soap)

  • dried blood

  • dusts from certain textiles

Explosion Protection Schematic Examples

Chemical Safety Board News Release 2/17/08

Additional Recent Dust Related Explosions-Google Map

Imperial Sugar Refinery Explosion  Aftermath Ignition Temperature Combustible Dusts

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Help Wanted ...Movin" to Texas

Theres currently a shortage of skilled labor in the Port Arthur, Texas area where billions of dollars  of construction contracts will be awarded in the expansion of the Motiva and Total refineries.

However, Jefferson County Judge Ron Walker said in a press release the area does not currently have enough skilled workers to meet the demands for now and in the future.

The United States currently has a shortage of refineries in the production of gasoline and the current expansion projects will provide some relief and a diminished reliance on imports.

City leaders are still reeling from the recent announcement of a $7 billion expansion of the Motiva refinery, and they were celebrating again on Feb. 13 as Total Petrochemicals announced it was investing $2.2 billion in its Port Arthur refinery.

Help Wanted in Texas

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Explosions Continue at More Plants

Explosions and fires continue on a regular basis at plants and facilities throughout the United States that generate combustible dusts. So far there is no comprehensive work place safety standard to prevent future potential incidents where fatalities and injuries occur like at the recent Imperial Sugar refinery explosion in Georgia last week. By a stroke of luck and the grace of God, no one was injured in this incident at Endres Processing Plant.

Past fires and explosions at the plant have resulted in a worker fatality, five injured workers, serious safety violations and thousands of dollars in fines.

This week another explosion occurred at the Endres Processing Plant in Rosemont, North Dakota, which recycles bakery and food byproducts into animal feed.

A fire at Endres Processing, a plant in east Rosemount that turns discarded baked goods into livestock feed, halted work on Wednesday.

Since there were no fatalities or injuries the incident will not be reported to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)officials

Most of the other fires at the plant also happened in equipment at the drying bin. Aker said dust from extra-dry grain can cause explosions in high temperatures.

Types of Combustible Dusts

  • metal dust, (aluminum and


  • wood dust;

  • plastic dust;

  • biosolids;

  • organic dust, (such as

    sugar, paper, soap) and

  • dried blood; and

  • dusts from certain textiles.

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB), a federal agency in the United States completed a two year investigation concerning combustible dusts in the work place and submitted the report to the Secretary of Labor back in November 2006. The primary recommendation of the federal agency was that OSHA institute a comprehensive work place standard and regulation concerning combustible dusts. So far the Department of Labor has not followed up on this recommendation, while preventable fires, explosions, injuries, and fatalities continue to occur at plants and facilities that generate combustible dusts.

Chemical Safety Board Recommendations

Nearly eight years ago on May 15, 2000, Endres Processing experienced another explosion that resulted in one fatality and four injuries.

An explosion in 2000 prompted OSHA to investigate Endres after an employee died and four others were injured. The company paid $33,000 in fines for failing to keep the plant free of grain spills and flammable dust and for not following its own safety procedures.

Endres Processing contested the fine stating that it was not bound to the OSHA regulation concerning combustible dust hazards since the facility was not a grain processing facility.

According to the contest, Endres, however, is not subject to the requirement because Endres does not receive or use as stock material any unprocessed grain materials. Accordingly, Endres is not a grain handling facility and is not subject to the OSHA standard for grain dust at such facilities.

This is where the root problem is now concerning accidents that are now occurring...there is no workplace safety standard.


that handle combustible dusts include:

  • agriculture

  • chemicals

  • textiles

  • forest

    and furniture products

  • wastewater


  • metal


  • paper


  • pharmaceuticals

  • recycling

    operations (metal, paper, and plastic)

  • Tire and rubber manufacturing


In addition to recent letters that prominent legislators have sent to the Secretary of Labor regarding needed amendments to OSHA work place standards concerning combustible dust hazards in the workplace a petition is now being generated by Care2, where over 8 million members have gotten involved in a myraid of issues that require change.

Give Us Combustible Dust Standards - Stop The Insanity" petition!

Explosions Continue at More Plants

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dust Explosions and Fires Continue Nationwide

Until the Secretary of Labor enacts a comphrehensive OSHA workplace standard  where combustible dusts are present, dust explosions and fires will continue at an unbridled rate.

A powerful sawdust explosion shook a building and started a fire at a furniture facility off U.S. 29 Tuesday morning, but left minimal damage and no injuries.

After a two year investigation, the Chemical Safety Board  submitted a report to the Department of Labor in November 2006, concerning combustible dust hazards and the prevelance of explosions, fires, injuries, and fatalities that occur in a wide spectrum of industries.

Top federal safety officials urged the Labor Department in 2006 to adopt critical regulations to prevent deadly dust explosions-- like the one suspected in the deadly blast in a Georgia sugar plant last Thursday-- but the government has failed to do so.

Additionally, as recent as last week in a letter to Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Chairman on Education and Labor also requested her  to act in providing workplace standards in combustible dust environments.

I am writing to ask you to take immediate steps to issue a standard to prevent combustible dust explosions, as recommended to your agency by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in November 2006.

Closer to the site of the Savannah dust explosion, Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), who are ranking members of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety have also sent urgent  pleas to the Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao concerning a prompt response so future catastrophes can be avoided.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the interim executive of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, urging them to begin a comprehensive investigation of the Feb. 7 explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Savannah, Ga.

Interesting enough, a two year investigation has already been completed by the Chemical Safety Board concerning dust explosions and now is the time to act with a comphrehensive regulatory framework concerning process mangement, hazard communication, and training concerning dust hazards . OSHA an agency under the umbrella of the Department of Labor, is not tasked with finding root causes of explosions like CSB, instead these regulators seek out regulatory infractions. Ironically,other than an OSHA Grain Handling Standard there are no comphrehensive regulations concerning most industries that generate  combustible dust hazards, except a general duty clause. Meanwhile, more dust explosions and fires continue in the nation's  workplace.

Fire closes Rice Lake

manufacturing plant 1/30/2008

Firefighters could see smoke emanating from a chip and dust collection chute when they arrived, which lead them to the source of the blaze located in a western storage silo. Flames also spread into an interior machine room in the main plant.

Coal dust sends firefighters to Clinton ADM plant Friday, December 21, 2007

The fire started when some coal dust near a boiler in the co-generation plant began to smolder, said company spokesman David Weintraub.

Investigative Team from U.S. Chemical Safety Board Deploys to Explosion at Georgia Sugar Refinery

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