A towering inferno erupted at a south Louisiana oil refinery on Friday morning, sending plumes of black smoke and forcing an emergency evacuation of residents within a two-mile radius. Although no injuries were reported, the incident has reignited concerns about the safety of such facilities, especially as it’s the third fire to hit the plant in less than a year.
The fire broke out around 8:30 a.m. at the Marathon Petroleum facility in Garyville, situated about 30 miles northwest of New Orleans, according to WBRZ.
Officials from St. John the Baptist Parish reported that the incident involved a naphtha release and a fire at one of the refinery’s storage tanks. Naphtha is a flammable and toxic kind of raw petrol or gasoline distilled from crude oil and a raw material for the chemical industry, which is often used in soaps and varnishes.
St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard declared an emergency soon after the incident was reported, and an evacuation order was swiftly enacted for residents within a two-mile radius of the blaze. That order was lifted by 2:20 p.m., after emergency crews managed to bring the fire under control and limit it to two damaged storage tanks.
Large fire at the Marathon plant in Garyville, LA pic.twitter.com/TY3f31R2wZ
— Jessie⚜️ (@JJOUBRE3) August 25, 2023
Incredible new aerial video shared with WBRZ shows an up-close look at the fire raging at the Marathon refinery in Garyville, Louisiana.
— WBRZ News (@WBRZ) August 25, 2023
Diesel futures surged to a seven-month high in New York after Marathon Petroleum Corp. said it was shutting the third largest US oil refinery following a blaze at a storage tank.
Diesel rose 5% while gasoline futures jumped about 4%. The outage threatens to deplete already below-average distillates stockpiles at a time when US demand for the fuel is set to rise going into the harvest and heating seasons.
Garyville, located on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, produces about 265,000 barrels a day of gasoline, or about 3% total US consumption. It also makes about 230,000 barrels per day of diesel, according to Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston. The refinery has a crude processing capacity of 596,000 barrels a day.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality “is conducting monitoring in the community adjacent to the site and all readings are nondetect,” according to spokesperson Gregory Langley.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it has deployed a federal coordinator to the site to oversee the response and provide technical support, including emergency response air monitoring in downwind communities. A firefighter is being evaluated for heat stress and two storage tanks have been damaged, according to Marathon spokesperson.