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Woods Cross refinery sues 4 companies over 2009 explosion, fire

Published November 6, 2012 2:34 pm

Courts • Suit seeks $75 million in damages.
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Silver Eagle Refining has sued four companies, alleging their negligence and breaches of contract led to a massive explosion in 2009 that rocked the company's Woods Cross crude oil refinery and damaged dozens of nearby homes.

The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City seeks more than $75 million from Professional Service Industries Inc., Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Sun Oil Co. and Moose's Construction as defendants.

Jeremy Seeley, an attorney with Plant Christensen and Kanell in Salt Lake City, said Tuesday that Silver Eagle had not authorized him to discuss the case.

The explosion at the 10,250-barrel-per-day refinery happened on Nov. 4, 2009 shortly after 9 a.m., when a 10-inch pipe filled with pressurized hydrogen suddenly failed. A resulting fireball and vibrations surged east toward a Woods Cross neighborhood.

At least one house was blown off its foundation. No one was hurt, but 10 homes were seriously damaged and nearly 300 homes were affected.

Professional Services, a suburban Chicago engineering consulting and testing company, allegedly failed to inspect the pipe. The company didn't respond to a request for comment.

Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. manufactured the pipe, which was attached to a dewaxing unit at the refinery. Sun Shipbuilding, a Pennsylvania company, allegedly improperly designed and manufactured the pipe and dewaxing unit. The company appears to have gone out of business in 1989.

Sun Oil Co. allegedly misrepresented the "fitness and integrity" of the dewaxing unit. The Philadelphia-based company did not respond to a request for comment.

Moose's Construction, a Wyoming company, allegedly failed to install the pipe, failed to use proper materials and didn't inspect its work. The company apparently no longer exists.

Silver Eagle's suit said the explosion and fire caused "extensive damage" to homes in the neighborhood; it didn't calculate the amount. The company did say that its refinery suffered more than $3.3 million in damage.

In 2010, the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division fined Silver Eagle nearly $1 million. The division's investigation of the explosion pinpointed 71 violations of state law that singled out problems with equipment, safety procedures and record keeping. Sixteen violations were deemed "willful." Another 55 were said to be "serious."


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