Refinery explosion report released

Image of the actual explosion at Imperial Sugar, Feb. 7, 2008 (Source: US Chemical Safety Board)
Image of the actual explosion at Imperial Sugar, Feb. 7, 2008 (Source: US Chemical Safety Board)
(Source: US Chemical Safety Board)
(Source: US Chemical Safety Board)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The US Chemical Safety Board has released its report on the February 7, 2008 explosion at Imperial Sugar that killed 14 people and injured dozens more.

The report released Thursday by CSB investigators says the explosion resulted from an ongoing release of sugar dust and poorly maintained equipment, conveyers and other sugar handling equipment at the Port Wentworth plant.

The report states that poor house keeping at the plant enabled highly combustible sugar dust and granulated sugar to built up throughout the refinery's packing buildings.

The CSB says there were two explosions at the plant on the night of February 7. They say the first likely happened inside the sugar conveyer which was beneath two large sugar silos.

Silo cutaway - (Source: US Chemical Safety Board)

Investigators say steel panels around the conveyer made a confined space for sugar dust to gather.

Closed conveyer - (Source: US Chemical Safety Board)

Open conveyor - (Source: US Chemical Safety Board)

They say that sugar dust inside the conveyer ignited from an overheating bearing, causing the first explosion. That explosion traveled into the packing building, breaking up more sugar dust that was on equipment and other surfaces in the packing building.

Cutaway of conveyor with sugar dust - (Source:
US Chemical Safety Board)

That's when the second explosion happened at the plant. It was that explosion that killed 14 people and injured 36 more.

The report says the explosions could have been prevented with routine housekeeping at the Port Wentworth facility.

The Chemical Safety Board uses its finding to make safety recommendations for the industry and policy makers.

In July, 2008, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration fined Imperial Sugar nearly $9 million. In their investigation, OSHA cited Imperial Sugar for 61 egregious violations, eight willful violations and 51 serious violations.

For the violations at the Port Wentworth plant, the fines totaled more than $5 million and OSHA also added nearly $4 million for Imperial's Louisiana plant.

Those were the third largest fine in OSHA's history.

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