WYNNEWOOD — A refinery blast that killed a Pauls Valley man and injured another Friday evening happened when pressurized gas built up in a boiler unit and then detonated.
The small blast occurred during a shift change on the second day of “turnaround” at the facility, a 40-day shutdown period scheduled when workers refurbish and repair refinery equipment, said Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes.
Rhodes said Billy Smith, 34, a full-time employee at the refinery, was the man who died.
Another full-time worker, Russell Mann, of Davis, remains in critical condition at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City after suffering blunt force trauma during the blast.
Rhodes said both men are well-known in the Pauls Valley and Wynnewood communities.
“The refinery has been a good neighbor to Wynnewood for years, and while nobody gets used to tragedies like this, the community is aware they occur and there's some risk with a refinery operation like this,” he said.
More workers on hand
Rhodes said as many as 2,000 employees and contractors were on-site at the time of the accident as one shift was preparing to leave and another was scheduled to start. That's an unusual number of employees at the refinery but is common during turnaround periods, which occur every four years, he said.
He said the blast did not cause a fire, but highways were closed for several hours to accommodate emergency responders.
The Wynnewood facility, which refines up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil a day into petroleum products, was acquired by CVR Energy in December. Company officials issued a statement late Friday expressing their sympathies to the employees and families affected by the explosion.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials arrived early Saturday to investigate, Rhodes said.