An Alabama Woman was killed on Friday morning at Chevron Pascagoula Refinery, Abc News reports. The Chevron factory operator was identified as 49-year-old Tonya Graddy (known as ‘Toni’ by friends and co-workers). Her job as the factory operator was to manage the flow of crude through the plant.
The authorities are now investigating the cause of the explosion and fire at the Southern Mississippi refinery. The company released a statement which said, "We have begun the process of investigating this incident and are cooperating with appropriate regulatory agencies."
Official reports indicates that the 49-year old woman died after something detonated inside the furnace and sparked a fire. The fire was contained in a small area and other operators were outside the furnace at the time.
"Graddy had worked as an operator at Chevron for about five years and she was among about a dozen workers in the area when the explosion happened," said Chevron Mississippi general manager, Tom Kovar. The victim was from Semmes, Alabama according to Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus. Like other operators, her job was to manage the flow of crude and other feedstock through the plant. About one-third of the plant's 1,500 employees are operators.
The "cracking area" of the refinery is the first step in breaking down the crude oil in the process of turning it into gasoline or coke. The use of hot furnaces and hot processes are involved in the process. Experts speculate that the explosion might have started from the cracking area.
"The most important thing now is that we keep the refinery running securely and deal with the investigation ... to get to the root cause of the event," Kovar said. The fire was in fact, contained by the crew and the refinery was kept running.
This is the third incident in about a decade at the Pascagoula refinery, two of which have resulted in death. A refinery worker was killed in 2003 when he fell from Scaffolding. Another one died in 2007 when fire ignited in one of the crude processing units.
(image via Wikipedia)