CONVENT, La. (WAFB) – The St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office said emergency crews are on the scene of a major fire at the Motiva Oil Refinery in Convent near the Sunshine Bridge. The fire has been contained at this time.
According to the plant’s switchboard operator, the fire at Motiva is a “Level 2” in the H-Oil unit. Witnesses in the area reported there was an explosion and then a fire. It happened at roughly 10:50 a.m. Thursday.
Officials with the St. James Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness ask people to avoid LA 70 from LA 3125 to LA 22 to allow emergency crews full and quick access to the area. The Sunshine Bridge is closed in both directions. They advise motorists to use the Veterans Memorial Bridge instead.
St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said the fire has been contained to one unit. The St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office said all of the Motiva employees have been accounted for and are safe. They are in the process of accounting for the contract employees.
Air quality testing is being performed to determine whether or not there is any off-site impact.
The plant has classified this as a level 2 incident.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning says that Motiva does have its own in-house fire crew and that team responded immediately to the blaze.
It is not yet known what caused the fire, but meteorologist Steve Caparotta confirmed there was lightning in the area at the time of the fire and says it’s a reasonable explanation.
According to its website, Motiva owns and operates three refineries. The combined refining capacity of the three sites is approximately 1.1 million barrels per day.
Motiva markets gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products in 26 states and the District of Columbia. It is a joint-venture with Shell-branded service stations.