1975 GULF OIL REFINERY FIRE
In the early hours of August 17, 1975, a tragic disaster occurred on the Gulf Oil refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This horrific disaster took the lives of eight firefighters, and potentially could have taken more lives if it wasn’t for the help of many surrounding fire stations. The cause of the fire was the overfilling of Tank 231. While no crude oil escaped from the tank as a result of being overfilled, large quantities of hydrocarbon vapors were trapped above the surface of the tank’s crude oil. As the quantity of crude oil increased, these hydrocarbon vapors were forced out of the tank’s vents and into the area of the No.4 Boiler House where the initial flash occurred. The overfilling of the tank resulted from a failure of the tanker’s personnel to properly monitor the quantity of crude oil being pumped to the tank. This whole disaster could have been avoided by just double checking the amount of crude oil in Tank 231.
At 12:45 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, August 17, 1975, the tanker “M/T Afran Neptune,” tied up at a Gulf Refinery dock, began pumping reconstituted Venezuelan crude oil with additional 5 percent naphtha into Gulf Refinery Tank No.231. Tank No.231, built in 1929, of riveted seam construction, had a capacity of 75,000 barrels and had recently been renovated with an internal floating roof. Within the refinery, the tank was located at Avenue “Y” and 4th Street. Located just west of Tank No.231 was Boiler
House No.4, the site of a four-alarm fire on April 22, 1967. A brick chimney arose from Boiler House No.4 and this stack was a familiar sight to westbound motorists on the Penrose Avenue Bridge as the word “GULF” was painted in large, white letters. Hydrocarbon vapors, emanating from Tank 231, accumulated in the area of the boiler house and were ignited by an unknown ignition source. A flame front followed the vapors back to Tank 231 causing fire at the tank’s vents and an explosion within the outer...
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