Federal regulators found multiple safety issues at St. Croix’s oil refinery during inspections over the summer, according to documents released Tuesday.
Maintenance and internal inspection issues at the plant could result in the release of toxic materials, the Environmental Protection Agency reported. Valves and piping in containers of anhydrous ammonia — which can cause severe respiratory injuries — “are in an advanced state of corrosion and disrepair,” according to the EPA’s report. “These conditions demonstrate a risk of catastrophic release of anhydrous ammonia and off-facility impact.”
Exposed wires at the petroleum refinery could spark a fire, the EPA said, as there are multiple pipes and valves in disrepair. Some oil pipes leaked during the agency’s inspection in late September. “Because of this degree of corrosion, the vessels, piping, and/or valves may fail, resulting in a catastrophic release,” according to the report.
Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation has owned and operated the 1,500-acre refinery since purchasing it earlier this year. Most units within the sprawling plant have been dormant since May 2021, and some have been idle since 2012. Port Hamilton plans to reopen the plant in 2023.
A fire at the refinery broke out in August in a pile of coke in the North Coke Dome. Port Hamilton quickly declared the fire under control but the EPA said it burned for approximately two weeks. It was extinguished by 11 mainland contractors and 43 local contractors. All the coke piles are currently turned over and sprayed with once a week, according to the report.
Some 12,000 barrels of heavy oil sit in a supply tank that partially collapsed in 2020, the EPA reported. Although an inspector certified the tank safe if kept below a certain level of oil, the agency said the collapse came “through lack of routine preventative maintenance.”