Wisconsin’s only refinery unveils reconstruction plans five years after the tragic blaze. The rebuilding process is underway, with an estimated cost of up to $1.2 billion.
Superior Refinery, Wisconsin’s only oil refinery, is set to resume full operations by the end of June. The refinery, now owned by Cenovus Energy, suffered an explosion in 2018 that led to a fire and caused the evacuation of 2,500 people in the area. The incident resulted in injuries to 36 workers and $550 million in damages to the facility.
In December, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s final report attributed the explosion to a lack of safety measures during a maintenance shutdown. It made 16 recommendations for improving safety, most of which applied to the refinery and its owner, Cenovus.
The actual damage was caused by a tank that spilled 17,000 barrels of hot asphalt into the refinery, resulting in a fire and the release of thousands of pounds of flammable hydrocarbon vapor. In rebuilding the refinery, Cenovus encountered pandemic challenges, which extended the process and accelerated costs from the original estimates.
Cenovus has also introduced several safety upgrades, including improvements to the hydrofluoric acid unit, seven water cannons that can be controlled remotely, continuous video surveillance, and color-changing paint to detect potential leaks. These measures will help ensure the safety of the refinery’s 350 employees, up from the previous 200 workers.
Mayor Jim Paine of Superior has committed to collaborating with the Superior Fire Department to implement safety recommendations. As a result, the refinery will be able to resume production of gasoline, diesel, and asphalt with a daily capacity of approximately 50,000 barrels, thanks to the new safety measures.
The rebuilding of the Wisconsin oil refinery is good news for the energy industry and the community. Once fully operational, it will fulfill a crucial role in meeting our energy requirements by providing a stable fuel source for transportation, heating, and other important activities. This is especially significant in light of the recent energy market’s instability and disruptions, underscoring the necessity of maintaining dependable energy infrastructure.