Production resumes at Chevron after fire

Chevron's largest U.S. refinery continued production Friday while teams assessed damage caused by a fire Thursday in one section of the sprawling facility.

"We have teams together that are investigating both the root cause of the incident as well as assessing the extent of the damage and putting together a repair plan," said Steve Renfroe, a spokesman at Chevron's Pascagoula plant.

Renfroe said he didn't know when the reports about damage and a possible cause would be available. He said other areas of the plant continued to operate. The refinery employs 1,350 people.

Meanwhile, Renfroe said Chevron officials were monitoring Hurricane Dean, which the National Hurricane Center said Friday had strengthened to a category 3 storm with 125 mile-an-hour winds.

Computer models are now split between the possibility that Dean will head straight into the Gulf of Mexico - which would mean a much stronger storm and a direct threat to oil and gas infrastructure - and previous forecasts calling for Dean to move west and lose power over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

The fire began about 2:30 p.m. Thursday in a crude processing unit. It was contained by the plant's fire emergency response team and was extinguished about 8:30 p.m., Renfroe said. He said no injuries occurred and all the plant's employees and contractors were accounted for.

Jackson County government spokesman Ken Flanagan said Thursday that one person at the refinery was treated for heat exhaustion and one in a nearby neighborhood was treated for an anxiety attack, but Renfroe could not confirm that information.

The facility is one of the top 10 petroleum refineries in the United States and has been operating on the Mississippi coast since 1963. Renfroe said the refinery had a crude oil capacity of 330,000 barrels a day and could produce about 5.5 million gallons of gasoline, jet fuel and diesel a day.

Other products made there include paraxylene, which is used by the textile and plastics industry, and benzene and ethylbenzene, both used automobile tires, sporting goods, nylon and pharmaceuticals, a company Web site said.