Philadelphia oil refining complex catches fire

June 21, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest oil refining complex on the Eastern Seaboard, caught fire after a series of explosions about 4 a.m. on Friday, June 21.

As of Friday morning, the Philadelphia Fire Department said the fire was not yet under control.

Philadelphia Fire Department Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said during a news conference on Friday morning that a vat of butane exploded at the southwest Philadelphia oil refinery.

“This is going to be a long operation,” Murphy said. “As you can see behind me, it looks pretty under control. It’s not under control yet. It’s confined and being addressed, but it’s not under control.”

According to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions website, the two refineries at the complex process about 335,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

The Philadelphia Fire Department originally reported that there were no injuries from the incident, but later on Friday morning the Philadelphia Enquirer reported that four plant workers suffered minor injuries. The fire briefly closed a portion of Interstate 76, but it has since reopened.

The Enquirer also reported that the fire threatened to increase fuel prices from Delaware to Maine. According to CNN, futures for Brent crude, the global benchmark, jumped 0.5% Friday, largely because of tensions between the United States and Iran. U.S. oil also rose 0.2%.

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service, said neither event should have much of an effect on diesel prices.

“This is not a big deal for the country,” Kloza said. “It’s a big deal for Philadelphia Energy Solutions. It’s a big deal for the people who live there.

“We don’t believe this is a major pivot point for the market. We think crude prices in 2020 will be lower than they are in 2019.”

Kloza said the G20 Summit later this month in Japan where President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss trade could play a much larger rule in the future of oil prices.

“We don’t think this is a pivotal point for the market,” he said. “The G20 meeting could be.”

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, associate editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.