Philadelphia Energy Solutions Incident Continues to Highlight Explosion Hazards

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Catastrophic Injury, Explosion, Oil and Gas Accident, Oil and Gas Incidents, Refinery Explosions, Workplace Accident, Workplace Explosion, Workplace Safety

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) explosion of 2019 was a significant industrial accident that took place at the PES refinery complex in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The incident occurred on June 21, 2019, resulting in a massive fire and explosion that rocked the facility and sent plumes of smoke billowing into the sky. For weeks and months following the incident, workers and residents lived in fear for their safety and wellbeing. What were previously only possible explosion hazards were reality.

The PES explosion and fire continues to serve as a stark reminder of the hazards associated with industrial operations. It also highlights the importance of prioritizing safety and environmental protection in such facilities. Anyone who works in the oil and gas industry, or lives near a facility, should be aware of the hazards and what is being done to prevent disasters like this one.

At Kherkher Garcia, our oil and gas injury lawyers have worked with many clients injured or affected by industrial incidents. Incidents like explosions and fires take a massive toll on everyone involved. Below, we provide more information about the PES incident, an overview of explosion hazards, and what your rights are if you are injured in an industrial incident.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions Explosion Incident

The PES refinery was one of the largest and oldest refineries on the East Coast. The facility covered approximately 1,300 acres and was capable of processing hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil per day. The explosion in 2019 took place in the alkylation unit, a crucial part of the refining process that produces high-octane gasoline components.

The explosion and subsequent fire led to the evacuation of nearby residents and caused significant damage to the refinery complex. Emergency responders, including firefighters and hazardous materials teams, worked to contain the blaze and prevent further escalation. Fortunately, there were no reported fatalities or serious injuries among the refinery workers or emergency personnel.

However, the incident raised concerns about air quality and potential environmental impacts due to the release of pollutants into the atmosphere. Local residents experienced heightened anxiety over the safety of their neighborhoods, prompting authorities to issue air quality advisories and monitor pollution levels in the surrounding areas.

Was Caused the PES Explosion?

The PES refinery had a history of safety and environmental violations, leading to criticism of its management practices and regulatory oversight. The explosion further fueled debates about the safety of industrial facilities in populated areas and the need for stricter regulations and oversight to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Following the explosion, the PES refinery complex filed for bankruptcy, citing financial difficulties exacerbated by the incident. The closure of the refinery had significant economic repercussions for the region, including job losses and disruptions to the supply of refined petroleum products.

What are the Hazards of Oil Refinery Explosions and Fires?

Oil refinery explosions and fires pose significant hazards to both human life and the environment. Some of the key hazards associated with these incidents include:

Loss of Life and Injury

Oil refinery explosions and fires can result in fatalities and injuries among refinery workers, emergency responders, and nearby residents. The initial blast and subsequent fires can cause burns, trauma, and respiratory injuries.

Toxic Emissions

Refinery fires release a variety of toxic gases and particulate matter into the air, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, benzene, and other volatile organic compounds. Exposure to these pollutants can cause respiratory problems, exacerbate existing health conditions, and pose long-term health risks, including cancer.

Air Pollution

Refinery fires emit large volumes of smoke and pollutants into the atmosphere, leading to air quality degradation in surrounding areas. Poor air quality can impact the health of residents, especially those with respiratory issues, children, and older adults.

Environmental Contamination

Oil refinery explosions and fires can result in the release of hazardous chemicals into the soil, groundwater, and nearby water bodies. Spills of crude oil, petroleum products, and other chemicals can contaminate ecosystems, harm wildlife, and damage aquatic habitats.

Property Damage

The intense heat generated by refinery fires can cause extensive damage to refinery infrastructure, equipment, and nearby properties. Explosions can result in structural collapse, fires spreading to adjacent buildings, and damage to critical infrastructure such as pipelines and storage tanks.

Economic Impact

Refinery explosions and fires can disrupt refinery operations, leading to supply shortages and price fluctuations in the petroleum market. Additionally, cleanup and recovery efforts following such incidents can incur significant costs for both the refinery operators and local governments.

Secondary Hazards

Refinery fires may also pose secondary hazards, such as the risk of explosions in nearby storage tanks, pipelines, or chemical storage facilities. These secondary incidents can further escalate the severity of the situation and complicate emergency response efforts.

Oil refinery explosions and fires represent complex and multifaceted hazards that require comprehensive risk management strategies, robust safety protocols, and effective emergency response capabilities to minimize their impact on human health, the environment, and surrounding communities.

What are Victims Rights after an Oil Refinery Explosion?

After an oil refinery explosion, victims have several rights and avenues for seeking compensation, accountability, and support. These rights may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the incident, but commonly include:

Right to Compensation

Victims of oil refinery explosions have the right to seek compensation for their losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other related costs. This compensation may be pursued through various legal means, such as filing lawsuits against the responsible parties, negotiating settlements, or participating in class-action lawsuits.

Access to Legal Representation

Victims have the right to seek legal representation to help them navigate the legal process, understand their rights, and advocate for their interests. Experienced attorneys specializing in personal injury, environmental law, or industrial accidents can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout the legal proceedings.

Right to Information

Victims have the right to access information about explosion hazards, the cause of the explosion, the extent of the damage, and the responsible parties involved. This includes access to investigation reports, environmental impact assessments, safety records, and other relevant documents that can help victims understand the circumstances surrounding the incident and their legal options.

Right to Participate in Legal Proceedings

Victims may have the opportunity to participate in legal proceedings related to the oil refinery explosion, such as depositions, hearings, or trials. Victims may be called upon to provide testimony, evidence, or expert opinions to support their claims and hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Right to Environmental Remediation

Victims living in the vicinity of the oil refinery explosion may have the right to demand environmental remediation measures to mitigate the contamination and pollution caused by the incident. This could include soil and groundwater cleanup, air quality monitoring, and restoration of affected ecosystems.

Access to Support Services

Victims of oil refinery explosions may require various support services to cope with the physical, emotional, and financial consequences of the incident. This could include medical treatment, counseling, financial assistance, housing assistance, and other forms of support provided by government agencies, non-profit organizations, or community groups.

Right to Safety Improvements

Victims have the right to advocate for safety improvements and regulatory changes to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. This could involve lobbying for stricter safety regulations, enhanced oversight of industrial facilities, and increased transparency and accountability measures for the oil and gas industry.

Victims of oil refinery explosions have legal rights and options available to them to seek justice, compensation, and support in the aftermath of such incidents. Seeking legal advice from qualified attorneys specializing in personal injury and environmental law can help victims understand their rights and navigate the complex legal process effectively.

Learn More about Your Rights

If you are concerned about explosion hazards and want to learn more about your rights, Kherkher Garcia can help. Whether you work in the oil and gas industry, have a family member who does, or you live near a refinery, we can help you understand and protect your rights.

Industrial incidents like the PES explosion represent the potentially catastrophic nature of these facilities when safety and oversight are lacking. Kherkher Garcia is committed to helping victims fight back against negligent operation, oversight, or management of these facilities. Our oil and gas injury lawyers are not afraid to take on large companies or complex incidents.

Learn more about your rights by contacting our team for a free consultation. We are available to assist online or over the phone at 713-333-1030. You can also reach out to us via our online contact form.

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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