Tesoro to pay $39M for fatal Anacortes refinery blast

The lawsuit against the Tesoro Corporation by families of seven workers killed in the 2010 Anacortes refinery explosion was settled in December for $39 million.

On Jan. 29, the federal Chemical Safety Board issued a draft report detailing extensive lapses in safety by Tesoro, by industry support groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and by state and federal regulatory agencies.

According to the report, the explosion and fire at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes “was caused by damage to the heat exchanger, a mechanism known as ‘high temperature hydrogen attack’ or HTHA, which severely cracked and weakened carbon steel tubing leading to a rupture.” The rupture leaked highly flammable “naphtha”, which self-ignited and caused massive explosion and fire. Two people were killed instantly, five others died later in the hospital and one contract employee survived with major injuries.

The report noted “a considerable frequency of significant and deadly accidents at refineries over the last decade.” The draft report, which must still be formally approved by the CSB, proposed more than 40 safety recommendations to Washington’s legislature and governor, to state and federal regulatory agencies, and to Tesoro and the American Petroleum Institute.

David Beninger of the Luvera Law Firm Group, attorney for the plaintiffs, said that funds had been disbursed to his clients and that a companion lawsuit against Lloyds Register Energy, an inspection contractor, had not been settled and would proceed to trial.

Congressman Rick Larson, whose district includes the refinery and who has been pressing the CSB to finish and release the report, issued a statement that said, ““This long overdue report tells us this accident was not only tragic, it was preventable. It is totally unacceptable that Tesoro management allowed non-standard safety practices to become routine.”

On Thursday, Jan. 30, the Chemical Safety Board held a “listening session” to accept public comments. The report can be accessed at www.csb.gov/assets/1/19/Tesoro_Anacortes_2014-Jan-29_Draft_for_Public_Comment.pdf.