Oct. 08–An explosion and fire Monday at the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, could potentially affect Maine’s supply of gas and heating oil.
The facility is the largest supplier of the state’s gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil.
The president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association said that until the scope of the damage was known, it’s too soon to guess what, if any, impact the event would have on the supply or price of heating fuel as the heating season begins.
An explosion and fire Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, shook the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. Photo by Michael Steeves
“It’s premature to talk to suppliers about alternative purchasing decisions,” said Jamie Py, who was following news reports while attending an industry conference in Las Vegas. “But it’s a good thing it’s not January.”
Irving doesn’t publicly release shipping information, but has in the past estimated that three out of five vehicles in Boston run on Irving gasoline. Five years ago, the New England Petroleum Council said 70 percent of Maine’s gasoline comes from the Saint John refinery, although it also can receive product from refineries in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Irving’s Saint John refinery is the largest in Canada. It produces 300,000 barrels a day of gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel, exporting half of it to the Northeast through terminals that include Searsport, Portland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
In Portland Harbor, it has a major presence at the Citgo/Irving and Buckeye/Irving terminals in South Portland. A tanker was offloading product Monday at the Buckeye terminal, which is connected to an Irving terminal in Bangor via an underground pipeline.
“There is a steady stream of tankers in the harbor from Irving,” said Mark Usinger, owner of the A.L. Griffin Inc., a ship chandler in Portland. “The port really depends on Irving now. They are in constant rotation.”
That tanker can hold 230,000 barrels of refined petroleum product according to Sean Petty, the operations manager at Moran Shipping Agencies, which serves as the agent for Irving in the harbor. At this time of year, Irving tankers holding heating oil call in Portland twice a week or so, Petty said.
Petty said he hadn’t received any information yet from Irving on the status of the refinery.
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) October 8, 2018
“I’m watching the news, like everyone else,” he said.
The massive explosion shook the city of Saint John. Earlier Monday, which is Canada’sThanksgiving, Irving Oil released a statement that said: “We can confirm that a major incident has occurred at our Saint John refinery this morning. We are actively assessing the situation at this time and will share more information when available.”
Canadian media reports showed flames and billowing black smoke coming from the refinery. Police were advising people to stay away from the refinery, and local hospitals were notified to be ready for a possible influx of patients, according to CBC News.
As of 3 p.m., the explosion and fire had caused no fatalities, although Irving Oil said several contractors were being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
“We’re very grateful today — and being Thanksgiving, I think it’s appropriate,” Kevin Scott, Irving Oil’s chief refining and supply officer, told reporters at an afternoon briefing after a tense day. “Very fortunate they had only minor injuries.”
Scott said there had been a malfunction in the refinery’s diesel treating unit, where sulphur is removed from diesel fuel, according to the Calgary Herald. The unit was quickly shut down after the blast.
Litsa Daeres, 34, who lives nearby, told the Associated Press that said she just started preparing her holiday dinner when she heard a loud bang.
“My whole house shook,” she said. “I thought my furnace had exploded.”
Daeres said she opened her curtains and saw flames and thick, black smoke.
Flames were still visible later in afternoon, and there were four separate sources of water being poured on the blaze.
The refinery is near several residential neighborhoods on Saint John’s east side.
New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization spokesman Geoffrey Downey said no evacuation orders had been issued, but there was an “order to shelter in place for anyone living in the direction of the plume.”
Nate Guimond, 36, told the AP he was doing house repairs when he saw smoke.
“I heard a rumbling, roaring sound,” Guimond said.
He decided to drive by the refinery and said he was nearby when he felt the vibrations of what he assumes must have been a second explosion.
Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or:[email protected]
Michelle Singletary: A 529 plan offers tax free savings for college
Canada, energy, maine businesses
Astros sweep Indians to reach ALCS
Sen. Collins’ vote on Kavanaugh triggers calls to boycott Maine
For Uncle Billy’s fans, bad news multiplies
Local & State
Waterville police identify man whose body was found by train tracks
Bergeron’s hat trick lifts Bruins in home opener
(c)2018 the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine)
Visit the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) at www.pressherald.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.