CSB Report: Startup Triggered Incident that Seriously Injured Employee

Feb. 23, 2024
A metal tube ruptured within a reactor charge furnace, releasing renewable diesel and hydrogen resulting in a fire.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) provided an update on its investigation into a Nov. 19, 2023, fire at the Martinez Renewables facility in Martinez, California.

The Martinez Renewables facility is a joint partnership between Marathon Petroleum and Neste, operated by a subsidiary of Marathon. The facility previously operated as a petroleum refinery for more than 100 years under various owners until 2020, when Marathon ceased production at the site. Marathon converted the site to a renewable fuels facility, which began production in early 2023 with plans to increase operation to full design capacity by the end of 2023.

According to the CSB update, the incident involved a metal tube rupturing in a reactor charge furnace during unit startup, releasing hot renewable diesel and hydrogen, causing severe injuries to a Marathon employee. Investigations found issues with furnace temperature control prior to the incident. The CSB aims to determine the incident's cause and prevent similar ones by analyzing metallurgical testing, failure mode and internal furnace component inspections. While the CSB doesn't issue fines, it recommends safety measures to companies and regulatory agencies like OSHA and EPA. The incident highlights the importance of managing safety hazards during startup phases, emphasizing the need for careful control and monitoring in such situations.

CSB Chairperson Steve Owens said, “The CSB is continuing to investigate this terrible incident to determine its cause, but we are issuing this update now to keep the public informed of the status of our investigation. Like here, many of the incidents that have been investigated by the CSB have occurred during start-ups when conditions at a facility can change quickly. These situations can present a unique set of safety hazards that must be carefully managed and controlled.”

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