Explosion shakes homes near refinery

November 4, 2009 12:12:35 PM PST
An explosion shook nearby homes as a fire broke out Wednesday at a refinery north of Salt Lake City. No injuries were reported, but one house was condemned. The blast shifted one house off its foundation sill, prompting a building inspector to condemn it as unsafe, said Woods Cross Mayor Kent Parry.

Residents reported a "significant boom" with damage to several homes around the Silver Eagle Refinery in Woods Cross, South Davis Metro Fire Deputy Chief Jeff Bassett said.

Parry said several other houses were without natural-gas service because residents switched off valves as a precaution. Gas service was not expected to be restored for a day and the refinery offered to put displaced families up in local hotels.

The refinery fire was contained but not yet out, said Krege Christensen, a company vice president.

Christensen said the exact cause of the explosion also remained unclear, but the trouble started at a pipeline connecting two vessels. He acknowledged the blast knocked out windows of nearby houses.

"We don't know what happened, but nobody was hurt," he said.

Christensen said a brief power outage was reported at the nearby Holly and Flying J refineries in West Bountiful, causing generators to kick in. Steam and fire were released as a safety measure, he said.

Silver Eagle had a similar outage and a diesel unit caught fire, said Cindy Gubler, a public relations consultant for Silver Eagle Refinery. The chain of events remained unclear.

Christensen said his company believed a utility outage led to trouble at multiple refineries, but Rocky Mountain Power said it didn't cause the problem.

Utility spokesman Dave Eskelsen said the explosion at Silver Eagle briefly knocked out a 46,000-volt transmission line, leading to emergency measures at the refineries.

It was the second blaze this year at the Silver Eagle refinery. On Jan. 12, four people were seriously burned when a 440,000 gallon storage tank caught fire and burned for 11 hours.

Federal investigators said the ignition source may have been a gas heater or a refrigerator's electric outlet in a utility shed about 160 feet from the tank.

Silver Eagle Refining Inc. is about five miles north of Salt Lake City.

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