WHITING | Officials at the BP Whiting Refinery are leading an investigation to figure out the root cause of a "brief flash fire" that sent three contract workers to the hospital Tuesday night.
According to spokesman Brad Etlin, the fire took place around 9:45 p.m. at a unit undergoing routine maintenance. He said a flash fire can be a sudden flare-up that can often put itself out as quickly as it appears.
The workers were taken to local hospitals last night, Etlin said. He said two workers were being treated for burns, but were in stable condition as of Wednesday morning. A third worker who suffered smoke inhalation was discharged from a hospital by Wednesday afternoon, he said.
"Our thoughts are with our friends and co-workers as they recover from the incident," Etlin said.
The victims' identities or the companies they worked for were not released.
Scheduled maintenance on the unit was cancelled Wednesday in an effort to find the cause of the incident to prevent it from happening again, Etlin said.
The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent an investigator to the refinery Wednesday and has opened an investigation into the incident, said Bob Dittmer, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Labor.
Houston-based IIR Energy, a research firm that gathers information on industrial facilities, said Wednesday that it believes the flash fire happened at a hydrotreater.
The firm said a scheduled maintenance outage was scheduled for the hydrotreater last weekend and prior to the fire, the unit was scheduled to be down for six weeks. A coker at the refinery, which went down for maintenance after suffering a fire later last month, has already been returned to limited service, the firm said.