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Explosion Releases Sulfur Fumes at Valero Houston Refinery

Houston, TX, August 4, 2008 – The Houston Fire Department and Hazmat crews responded early Monday morning to an explosion at the 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) Valero Houston refinery.

Around 7:15 AM, an explosion destroyed the side of a large sulfur loading tank, scattering debris and releasing sulfur dioxide fumes into the air. Sulfur, known for its distinctive, “rotten-egg” smell, can cause difficulty breathing; exacerbate asthma and other existing respiratory conditions; and aggravate heart disease.

Though no injuries were immediately reported at the refinery, four workers at a cargo terminal in the area were taken to a hospital for further evaluation.

The Valero refinery is located at 9701 Manchester in East Houston. After the blast, officials called for a “shelter-in-place” to protect the surrounding community. The order was lifted approximately two hours later.

According to the Houston Fire Department, Valero was handling the situation on its own, and firefighters were on the scene only as a precautionary measure.

Valero had recently restored throughput at the Houston plant after supply interruptions caused by Hurricane Dolly.

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