Southwest, Philadelphia, PA— The Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery is the largest oil refining complex on the East Coast.  It is also said to be the largest gas refinery in the country. Just after 4 AM Friday, an explosion let fly a massive fireball, that lit up the sky across the city, parts of New Jersey and as far as Delaware.

Thick black dense plumes of smoke were released into the air at the 150-year-old refinery, prompting the city to issue a shelter in place order for South Philadelphia.  The order has since been lifted.

By noon, the Department of Public Health said air sampling at the refinery and in and around the community had found “no ambient carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons (which are combustibles), or hydrogen sulfide.”  additional testing samples were taken and sent to the air management services lab where the health department is awaiting results of tests that have been run.

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Photo Credit:  Philadelphia Energy Solutions          Pre Explosion view 


The PES operation processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily.  A barrel holds 42 gallons, which equates to over 14 million gallons of oil processed daily. The Southwest Philadelphia plant has approximately 1100 employes.  That figure does not count contractors or other people that are not directly employed by PES.

Philadelphia deputy fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said crews arrived on the scene and found PES fire brigade already battling the massive inferno that was fed by a vat of butane.  Murphy also went on to say that it was not clear what had started the fire and that employees were nearby, but far enough away where they did not receive any injuries.

It has been reported but not verified that a fire occurred in this refinery less than two weeks ago on June 10. No injuries were reported in that situation.

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