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Official: Montana plant fire no longer a threat

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 31, 2012 at 8:24 pm •  Published: December 31, 2012

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A fire from a weekend explosion that injured three workers next to an eastern Montana oil recycling plant was still burning Monday but there was no longer any threat of it spreading to other tanks, Wibaux county officials said.

The fire at Custom Carbon Processing's salt water disposal and oil reclamation facility in Wibaux County started Saturday with an explosion as the contents of a tanker truck were being pumped into the facility while the three workers were installing insulation.

The explosion and fire destroyed the facility, which just opened in September, and the blaze has continued to burn for two days in the trailer of the tanker truck and in a pit beneath the facility, where oil product is stored," said Wibaux Fire Chief Brian Nelson.

"It's brand new but it'll be pretty much a total loss," Nelson said.

The truck was still running and pumping material from the trailer while it burned. Fire officials stayed clear on Sunday because of the possibility of it spreading to nearby oil tanks, said Wibaux County Disaster and Emergency Services spokesman Mike Schneider.

On Monday, officials said that threat had passed.

"Ever since the structure burned down, the only flame is coming out of the tank. The truck ran out of fuel, so it quit running," Schneider said. "It's just burning off slow."

But fire officials were undecided Monday afternoon whether to move in or to let the fire burn itself out.

"We're trying to decide that right now, what our best course is," Nelson said.

It is unclear what caused the explosion. Nelson said oil or gas leaking from the truck appears to have ignited, but the state fire marshal is expected to make a determination after an investigation next week.

Company officials declined to discuss the conditions of the workers who were injured. At least two of them were taken to a hospital in Dickinson, N.D.

The Alberta, Canada-based owner of Custom Carbon Processing has made no public statements about the explosion and fire. Peter Margiotta, the president and CEO of parent company Green Oasis Environmental Inc., was headed to the site Monday.

The company did not plan to release any information on the fire or the injured workers until Margiotta sees firsthand what happened, investor relations spokesman Stephen Taylor said.

"Once he gets further information, then he will be disclosing it to the public," Taylor said.

Occupational and Safety Health Administration investigators were also headed to the site, Schneider said.

Custom Carbon Processing on its website said it uses a complex process to convert residual wastes, called slop oil, from the oil producing process that would otherwise be discarded and turns it into pipeline-grade oil the company sells to oil buyers.

The facility eight miles outside Wibaux, at the western end of the Bakken oil boom, was a former oil well and then a disposal well. It opened in September as Michels Salt Water Disposal and Oil Reclamation Facility capable of reclaiming slop oil.


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