Baytown, Texas: 4 injured after explosion and fire reported at ExxonMobil refinery, officials say

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The first reports indicated that an explosion had occurred at the ExxonMobil oil refinery in Baytown, Texas, in Harris County, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. said in a tweet, and locals reported a loud explosion.

A fire occurred at the refinery around 2 a.m. ET, according to ExxonMobil, which did not immediately confirm an explosion or indicate what led to the blaze.

Four people were injured, the sheriff’s office noted, three of which were transported by helicopter and one by ambulance.
The fire occurred at a unit that produces gasoline, ExxonMobil refinery manager Rohan Davis said Thursday morning. Company rescuers extinguished the fire in the morning, ExxonMobil said.

The conditions of the four injured people were stable, said Davis, who said he could not comment on the extent of their injuries.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known and will be investigated, Davis said.

The company coordinates with authorities and monitors air quality with regulators, Davis said.

“All of these results have so far shown no impact on the community from an air quality perspective,” Davis said.

Blast effects could impact gas prices in the spring

The Baytown refinery, which started its activities in 1920, has an average daily capacity to refine 561,000 barrels of oil, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

This makes it the fourth largest refinery in the United States, only 8% smaller than the largest, the Motiva Enterprises facility in Port Arthur, Texas, owned by Saudi Aramco. Baytown is one of five US refineries with a capacity of over 500,000 barrels per day.

The refinery incident on Thursday could hamper production for months, weighing on gasoline supplies at a time when U.S. refining capacity has already been squeezed, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Department of information on oil prices.

The incident is not expected to immediately drive up gas prices. That’s mainly because the next six weeks – just before Christmas through early February – is historically the time of the lowest gasoline demand nationwide. Wholesale gasoline prices rose just 2 cents per gallon to $ 2.19 early in Thursday.

“Fortunately, we don’t need gasoline (from Baytown) for the next six weeks,” Kloza said. But in the spring, when demand starts to rise again, Baytown’s loss of production will likely be felt at pumps across the country.

ExxonMobil operates the refinery and several other facilities, including a chemical plant and technology center, on approximately 3,400 acres in and around Baytown. It employs approximately 7,000 people in the Baytown area, the company said.

The Baytown refinery is located approximately 40 km east of downtown Houston.

CNN’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

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