Major fire, explosions at Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick

Irving Oil refinery

A plume of smoke rises over Irving Oil's refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, where residents reported an explosion at the facility on Monday morning.

The massive explosion shook the city of Saint John.

Kevin Scott, Irving Oil's chief refining and supply officer, told reporters at an afternoon briefing that the company was "very grateful today - and being Thanksgiving, I think it's appropriate".

"At times we were letting that just safely extinguish itself", he said.

It wrote: "We can confirm that a major incident has occurred at our Saint John refinery this morning".

He said there had been a problem with the refinery's diesel treating unit, which removes sulphur from diesel fuel, but it wasn't yet clear exactly what caused the malfunction.

"My whole house shook".

The crude section, catalytic reformer and a cogeneration unit were shut following the incident, Genscape reported, adding that multiple units were already offline for maintenance. "I thought my furnace had exploded".

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Saint John resident Michael Steeves says he was driving about a kilometre away when he noticed the fire and thick, black smoke. AT, with four separate sources of water being poured on the blaze.

Geoffrey Downey, spokesperson with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said there were only "couple minor injuries at this point, but nothing serious".

The employees said the explosion happened in an active part of the refinery, and not in a section now undergoing a maintenance shutdown.

The refinery is near several residential neighborhoods on Saint John's east side.

Nate Guimond, 36, said he was doing house repairs when he saw smoke. He says he was getting ready to go to bed when the blast occurred, and that they were all relieved to hear everyone was okay.

Rob Beebe felt the explosion from his apartment on Martha Avenue, a few streets over from the refinery.

When he walked outside, he noticed black smoke coming from the refinery, so he hopped into the vehicle, drove down the corner and saw fire about 30 metres high.

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