A safety video released October 27 by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board (CSB) reached 1 million views on YouTube within a week, the CSB announced November 7. The video, “Wake Up Call: Refinery Disaster in Philadelphia,” details the June 21, 2019, fire, series of explosions, and toxic hydrofluoric acid (HF) release at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The CSB released a final report October 11 on the June 2019 fire, explosions, and chemical leak at the PES refinery, identifying several safety issues. During the incident, over 5,000 pounds (lb) of HF was released, and a 38,000-lb vessel fragment was launched off-site and landed on the other side of the Schuylkill River; other fragments landed within the refinery’s grounds.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also investigated the accident at the refinery. In 2020, the agency cited PES for serious violations of the process safety management (PSM) standard and proposed penalties totaling $132,600.
The CSB maintains a YouTube channel of training videos and videos summarizing the board’s investigations of catastrophic chemical incidents. The board’s channel has over 240,000 subscribers, and its videos have been viewed over 45 million times.
The CSB’s video about the PES incident is its most recent and has gained the highest number of views within just the first days after its release. Other heavily viewed videos on the CSB’s channel include:
- “Blowout in Oklahoma,” viewed 2.5 million times, is a training video for the onshore drilling industry detailing lessons learned from a January 22, 2018, blowout and fire at the Pryor Trust gas well in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, that fatally injured five workers.
- “Fatal Exposure: Tragedy at DuPont,”viewed 2.4 million times, summarizes 3 accidents occurring over a 33-hour period at a Dupont plant in Belle, West Virginia.
- “Inferno: Dust Explosion at Imperial Sugar,”viewed 1.5 million times, summarizes a series of sugar dust explosions at the Imperial Sugar plant near Savannah, Georgia, on February 7, 2008, in which 14 workers were fatally burned.
“Our safety videos allow millions of viewers to learn about the CSB’s work and the important safety recommendations we make,” Steve Owens, the CSB’s interim executive, said in a board statement. “While many people read our reports, millions more learn about our critical investigations of catastrophic chemical incidents by watching our videos.”
Issues in PES incident
Safety issues at the PES refinery identified in the CSB’s report include:
- Mechanical integrity,
- Verifying the safety of equipment after changes to industry guidance as required by OSHA and EPA regulations,
- Remotely operated emergency isolation valves,
- Safeguarding reliability in HF alkylation units, and
- Implementing alternatives to HF and sulfuric acid alkylation at the refinery.
The CSB’s report included recommendations for the EPA and industry officials at the American Petroleum Institute (API). The board recommended that the EPA require petroleum refineries to conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis as part of their process hazard analysis under the Agency’s risk management program (RMP) rule and evaluate whether HF is a high-priority substance for risk evaluation and, if it is, conduct a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluation of HF and implement any identified risk mitigation requirements.