Fire contained at Motiva Oil Refinery in St. James Parish, no injuries reported

Fire contained at Motiva Oil Refinery in St. James Parish, no injuries reported

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A major fire at the Motiva Oil Refinery in Convent is contained though what caused the blaze remains a mystery, according to the general manager at the plant.

All Motiva employees are accounted for and there are no reported injuries, according to the plant's general manager.

The "Level 2" fire at Motiva started around 10:50 a.m. on Thursday, August 11. It took a little over an hour to contain the massive blaze, which at sometimes rose higher than the smoke stacks.

The fire was located in the H-Oil unit, which is where distilled chemicals are refined into products like diesel.

Fire crews on site responded to the blaze. First responders from the parish did not actually fight the flames, though did remain on standby.

"We have a lot of resources on site, both in people and equipment, and this is where we start," said Hugues Bourgogne, the general manager of the plant.

Employees were already in the process of being released for the day due to bad weather when the blaze began. At times, up to 1,400 people can be at work at the plant.

Many fleeing employees went to a nearby gas station, where they could see the flames. Trucker Chris Fowler, of Abeline, Texas, was taking a pit stop at that gas station.

"We saw the workers coming in and people panicking," Fowler said. "If it got worse, we knew were going to have to get the heck out of dodge, because if it got worse, you can't mess with chemical fires."

So far, there is no indication as to what sparked the blaze, but it is unlikely that it was caused by lightning, according to Bourgogne. He noted that the first priority was safety.

At this time, there are no known threats to the surrounding local community. The plant as well as the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) ran air quality tests in the hours after the fire.

Motiva Enterprises has two refineries in Louisiana, including the one in Convent where the fire occurred. The other one is in Norco, just outside of New Orleans.

According to its website, Motiva is owned by two major oil companies: The Shell Oil Company and Saudi Aramaco, located in Saudi Arabia.

Motiva markets gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products such as heating fuel, propane, butane, and refinery grade sulfur, in 26 states and the District of Columbia. It is a joint-venture with Shell-branded service stations.

The DEQ and Motiva have had discussions in the past about environmental issues.

In 2013, the company reached a settlement for $500,000 for emission violations at both the Norco and Convent plants that were discovered three years earlier.

On its website, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also showed $19,000 in fines for safety violations in 2010.

Meanwhile, in the last five years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also fined Motiva $935,000 for alleged Clean Air Act violations, according to the agency's website.

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