sweeny refinery explosion lawyers

Phillips 66 Sweeny Refinery is a Safety Violation Hub

What if there was an oil refinery that consistently failed to meet safety regulations? Each year they would report significant High-tech and mechanical breakdowns. Yet, they fail to make the necessary safety changes. You would probably think it was an accident waiting to happen.

The Phillips 66 Sweeny Refinery, located 65 miles southwest of Houston, spans over 14,000 acres of land. Initially built in 1942, it was later purchased by Phillips 66 in 1947. It is the third-largest facility owned and operated by the multi-national energy giant. And produces a net capacity of 2.2 million barrels per day of high-sulfur crude oil. The refinery also produces gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels. The force behind the operation of the facility is the more than 1200 employees on site.


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In Texas, the courts look for any pattern that may indicate that a refinery and its management acted negligently. What that pattern may reveal is a deliberate intention to skirt safety regulations to cut working costs.
In the case of Phillips 66 Sweeny Refinery, there is a historical pattern of possible negligence and failed safety standards. This act of negligence continues to place employees, contractors and laborers at a higher risk of injury.

Here are some of the previously identified safety issues in the recent history of Sweeny Refinery. This list does not include the 1991 explosion accident that injured two employees.

May 26, 2016

Problems with equipment and emissions at its Sweeny refinery in Texas. “The wastewater plant regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) went into standby mode, and the bioreactor tank, Tank 69, vented.

March 14, 2015

Phillips reported the shutdown of the fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at its Sweeny, Texas, refinery.

July 16, 2014 

Phillips reported power to both flare gas recovery compressors lost due to an electrical failure causing the flare gas recovery system to shut down.

June 6, 2014

Phillips reported an air blower turbine shutdown was causing emissions from its coker and fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU).

May 28, 2013

Phillips 66 reported that the Unit 35 furnace at its Sweeny refinery tripped when a stack damper stuck in a closed position. This resulted in flaring, causing the shut down of unit 35.

April 16, 2013

Phillips 66 reported that several units at its Sweeny refinery shut down the morning of April 16 following a loss of most of the plant’s steam supply.

February 14, 2013

Phillips 66 reported it was restarting the Unit 27 fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at the refinery.  

September 11, 2012

On September 11, 2012, there was a benzene release from a thermal oxidizer at the Sweeny Refinery.  

July 1, 2012

Repair of the gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit. This was after the refinery found oil oozing from welds on a box attached to the unit’s riser. The notice was filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Source: Web June 2020, Research And Ideas ​

While any industry that relies on technology and equipment can experience maintenance issues. The gas and oil sector depends on the tech tools and software to manage and operate safe refining processes. There is a growing problem hiring qualified and experienced staff to operate these tools.

Furthermore, as the older age group that holds tremendous oil and gas experience begins to permanently retire. The industry struggles to find qualified replacements to fill these spots. Thus, this creates a dilemma for the industry. In that there are fewer oil and gas refining techs with safety training. And employers having tighter budgetary restrictions to recruit and train the new technicians.


In  April 1991, an explosion broke out in the refinery section dedicated to heavy oil desulfurization. The explosion resulted in the injury of two workers. One received mild burns on his arms. Another worker had to be taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.

The centrifugal force of any blast at an oil refinery, where highly combustible gas and oil are under pressure, is very dangerous. When pipes or towers experience malfunctions in pressure and fluid level gauges. The increased pressure can lead to an overflow situation of super-heated oil or gas. That can create a thick fog of vapor that is slightly denser than oxygen, and so it settles along the ground.

Then, all it takes is a combustion source, and you have a catastrophic accident. In this particular incident, none of the immediate employees or contractors had adequate training. Thus, they lacked the training on the importance of adhering to the required safety regulations.

Frequently in oil refinery accidents and injury cases, it is often revealed that the refinery had engaged in some cost-cutting measures. This negligence, however, places workers at an increased risk. Should you get the chance to look at a control room at an oil refinery? You will see a collection of alarms, alerts, and reminders on a multitude of computer screens. Thus, you can understand how an operator could overlook a small alert. Also, there may be a situation in which something goes wrong. But because there are no senior management or experienced refinery operators present, things can quickly get out of hand.


Because of the nature of their roles, refinery employees are at high risk of fire and burn injuries as part of their job. The burns can occur from making accidental skin contact with a heated element or oil and gas pipe. More serious third-degree burns can occur when there is an explosion.

Broken bones are another common injury that oil refinery workers in Texas encounter on the job. Some aspects of the job require employees to climb up ladders or processing towers. In all honesty, falling injuries are very common in this occupation. In some cases, workers develop spinal damage or traumatic brain injury (TBI) from these falls. Lacerations from metal or shrapnel from a refinery explosion. Exposure to toxic chemicals and fumes can also be common.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an oil and gas refinery accident. Or suffered injuries from the safety negligence of a refinery employer. Contact our legal team for a free consultation.

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Did you or a loved one suffer injuries in an explosion? Or experienced toxic exposure at or near the South Hampton Refinery? Our legal team is ready to fight for the justice you deserve. Williams Hart & Boundas represents people and families in wrongful death and injury cases against negligent oil and gas refineries. When you hire us, you’ll receive the knowledge and resources it takes to hold these massive corporations accountable.

Too often massive corporations do not pay for their negligent actions. Which leaves many victims to face mounting hospital expenses and long-term medical care. In addition to this, they also experience loss of income and quality of life. As a result, they often feel like they do not have anyone to turn to. Do not sign an agreement or settlement with any insurance member. Do not enter into any negotiation with your employer or an oil and gas corporation. Contact one of our experienced refinery explosion lawyers before you do so.

Contact us to schedule your confidential and free legal consultation.