June 21 (UPI) — A large explosion rocked a gas refinery in Philadelphia early Friday — one of the largest refinery complexes on the East Coast — and injured five workers.
The blast at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery jolted residents from their sleep at 4 a.m. and people reported feeling aftershocks as far away as New Jersey.
Residents who live near the facility were ordered to shelter in place, but officials lifted that order later Friday and reopened the Platt Bridge.
The fire, contained on the property, wasn’t immediately brought under control. Firefighters worked with the refinery emergency operations team to hose down equipment to keep it cool.
More than 120 Philadelphia firefighters and 51 pieces of equipment responded to the fire.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said the fire ignited in a vat of butane gas, which later exploded. Smaller explosions ignited as the fire reached other fuel pipes across the complex.
One worker was in the refinery when the explosion happened but was far enough away to avoid serious harm. Five workers sustained minor injuries and received medical treatment at the scene.
Neighbors said debris from the refinery rained down from the sky into their yards.
Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management said preliminary testing on air quality “found no ambient carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons (combustibles) or hydrogen sulfides.”
The PES Philadelphia Refining Complex is the largest refinery on the East Coast and employs about 1,000 people.
Philly Thrive, an organization of low-income residents of color who live near the refinery, held a news conference Friday after the blast. The organization said it has been protesting the refinery and “it’s harmful impact” on the community for four years.
“Do you know how scared I was this morning to be shaken out of my sleep by the explosion,” said member Sonya Sanders. “I do everything I can to close my windows and keep this pollution out of my house. But when these fires happen it shows there really is nothing we can do to protect ourselves.”
This comes as demand for gasoline reaches an all-time high. U.S. drivers consumed 9.9 million barrels a day last week, up from 9.3 million barrels a day a year ago.
“It’s a serious outage that’s going to greatly affect the East Coast in particular,” said Again Capital’s John Kilduff. “There’s a cushion for drivers because we’re well supplied, but if there’s major damage, it’s going to change that dramatically.”
The explosion was so large it was seen by a weather satellite in space.
Here's a slower loop of the same image, a little easier on the eyes pic.twitter.com/WPHGDWfOTK— NWS Key West (@NWSKeyWest) June 21, 2019