CSB Releases Its Final Report On What Led To Husky Refinery Explosion In 2018

SUPERIOR, Wis. — A federal agency has released its final report on the 2018 Husky refinery explosion and fire in Superior, more than four-and-a-half years later.

The United States Chemical Safety And Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) put out the 196-page report detailing what happened.

The explosion that caused a fire went off on April 26th, 2018, during scheduled maintenance just before 10 a.m.

There were up to 900 people at the refinery at the time, with 36 of them injured from the explosion.

The CSB said that the source of the problem was the fluid catalytic cracking unit.

The refinery was shutting it down for a turnaround, but investigators say that Husky’s employees were not properly trained on the on the transient operation hazards when controlling the FCC unit.

An OSHA investigation also found that Husky employees’ training was inadequate, where newer employees with less experience were sometimes training the brand new employees.

There are multiple factors to blame for the explosion, such as equipment with outdated steel, and issues in emergency preparedness and safety management with employees.

“Furthermore, Husky Superior Refinery had no console training available outside of on-the-job training for shutting down the FCC unit,” CSB’s report said (page 130-131). “On the day of the incident, neither the head operator nor the board operator had shut down the FCC unit for a turnaround before, because they were not yet qualified to be board operators during the previous turnaround five years prior in 2013. Due to the lack of hands-on practice opportunities available between the five-year turnaround intervals at Husky Superior Refinery, none of the employees working on the day of the incident had sufficient board operator experience for safely shutting down the FCC unit for a turnaround.”

The CSB citied a list of factors to blame for the explosion, such as equipment with outdated steel, and issues in emergency preparedness and safety management with employees.

Ultimately, the explosion caused more than half a billion dollars in property damage, evacuations in Superior, a shelter-in-place order in Duluth, and fear that hydrofluoric acid could have leaked, which did not end up happening.

Husky and Cenovus energy merged last year.

You can read the CSB’s full report here.

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