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Explosion at Husky refinery in Wisconsin sends several people to hospital

Last Updated Apr 26, 2018 at 12:01 pm PDT

This photo provided by KQDS_FOX21 in Duluth, Minn., shows personnel outside the Husky Energy oil refinery Thursday morning, April 26, 2018, after a tank containing crude oil or asphalt exploded at the large refinery in Superior, Wis. Authorities say several people were injured. The flame at center right is a normal part of refinery operations. (KQDS_FOX21 via AP)

CALGARY – A tank containing crude oil or asphalt exploded at a Wisconsin refinery owned by Calgary-based Husky Energy Inc. on Thursday, injuring several people and causing a blast that one worker described as sounding like a sonic boom.

No fatalities have been reported, but at least five people have been taken to hospitals in Duluth, Minn., following the explosion at the oil refinery at about 10 a.m., Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger told The Associated Press.

Panger didn’t have details about the extent of their injuries. Others were walking wounded.

The 50,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Superior purchased by Husky last year has been shut down and there’s no word yet on when it might restart, said company spokesman Mel Duvall.

“We have responders on site,” he said.

“There have been some injuries and those folks are being treated in hospital but all personnel have been accounted for and at this time we are not aware of any fatalities.”

He said he couldn’t confirm the cause or location of the incident which occurred about an hour before Husky’s annual general meeting began in Calgary.

A contractor who was inside the building told WDIO television that the explosion sounded like “a sonic boom” and that it happened when crews were working on shutting the plant down for repairs.

Panger said the fire was out by 11:20 a.m., although smoke could be seen rising from the plant. Panger said a small tank exploded containing either crude oil or asphalt.

Superior police are advising people to stay away from the area and roads around the refinery have been blocked off. There have been no neighbourhood evacuations. Superior is a city of about 27,000 people that borders Minnesota to the north and the tip of Lake Superior.

No damage estimate was available. The Superior Fire Department sent all three engine companies to the explosion, and nearby Duluth sent over a command vehicle.

Husky announced the purchase of the refinery from Indianapolis-based Calumet Specialty Products Partners last year for $560 million in cash. It’s Wisconsin’s only refinery, and it produces gasoline, asphalt and other products.

The refinery, which dates back to the early 1950s, has a processing capacity of around 50,000 barrels per day and a storage capacity of 3.6 million barrels of crude and products. It processes both heavy crude from the Alberta oilsands and lighter North Dakota Bakken crude.

– With files from the Associated Press