A St. Croix refinery is facing $259,407 in proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties after the agency cited the company for 20 violations of the process safety management (PSM) standard. Releases of oil and vapor into the air and fiery flares at a St. Croix refinery in February and May led to an OSHA investigation that concluded that Limetree Bay Refining LLC’s refinery in Christiansted failed to meet federal workplace chemical safety standards and endangered workers.
Limetree Bay Refining was part of the Limetree Bay Energy complex in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Limetree Bay Refining also was cited by the EPA on April 30 and June 16 for Clean Air Act (CAA) violations. The EPA issued a CAA Section 303 order on May 14, pausing operations. On July 12, the Department of Justice announced the refinery was no longer in operation and that Limetree Bay did not intend to restart the refinery and had agreed to EPA requirements regarding the refinery’s shutdown.
OSHA determined that Limetree Bay Refining did not:
- Compile all necessary information on process equipment and technology, including relief system design, safe operating limits, and consequences of deviation from those limits.
- Evaluate and implement controls to manage process hazards adequately.
- Complete a pre-start-up safety review.
- Prevent process equipment from operating in a deficient condition.
- Inspect process equipment adequately before returning it to service and introducing hazardous chemicals to the process.
- Develop and implement operating procedures to address conditions that deviate from normal operations.
“There are inherent hazards facing workers in facilities that process large quantities of flammable and toxic chemicals at high temperatures and pressures. Complying with OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard reduces those risks and protects workers,” Alfredo Nogueras, OSHA’s Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, area office director, said in an agency statement.
“The number and increasing severity of the release incidents at the Christiansted refinery shows us that Limetree Bay Refining LLC was putting workers at risk by permitting serious deficiencies to exist with its process equipment and inadequate process safety management programs.”
Petroleum refineries are subject to EPA regulations in addition to OSHA’s PSM and other safety standards. OSHA currently has a National Emphasis Program for enforcement of its PSM standard that includes petroleum refineries, as well as chemical manufacturing and facilities producing explosives and pyrotechnics. The agency has a rulemaking intended to modernize the standard to prevent major chemical accidents. It also issued a request for information on the rulemaking in 2013, and the rulemaking remains in the prerule stage.
Incidents at refineries also are investigated by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). The CSB makes recommendations to the EPA and OSHA, as well as to facility operators and standards-setting organizations. The CSB currently has 14 open recommendations for OSHA to address.
The U.S. Virgin Islands have an approved state plan covering local and territorial workers. However, federal OSHA exercises enforcement authority over private sector employers in the territory.