DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The top of the tank that stores liquid asphalt at Tesoro Hawaii's Ewa plant, left, was damaged yesterday.
Fire at Tesoro eats into asphalt reserves
A storage tank leak could halt roadwork slowed by a shortage
A storage tank fire at Tesoro Hawaii's plant yesterday threatened the state's sole supply of liquid asphalt, less than a week after the company restarted production of the material used to repair isle roads.
The fire inside Tesoro's only storage tank in Campbell Industrial Park could force officials to stop liquid asphalt production indefinitely so they can empty the tank to investigate, company spokesman Nathan Hokama said.
On Thursday, Tesoro received its first shipment in more than two months of the crude oil used to make asphalt. The company had exhausted its supply of liquid asphalt in mid-April, putting many road projects on hold.
About 11:40 a.m. yesterday, a company employee noticed smoke leaking from the roof of the storage tank. By 12:05 p.m., fire crews arrived at 91-325 Komohana St. and officials closed all roads leading to tank 513. The company evacuated all employees in the area and notified the neighboring Gas Co. of the situation.
Tesoro Hawaii spokeswoman Jeanette Mukai said the roof of the tank had separated from its base and was releasing smoke into the air. She said there were no flames and no one was injured. Officials sounded the all-clear by 2:30 p.m. and a preliminary assessment revealed that no harmful chemicals were released into the air, Mukai said.
Officials do not know the cause of the fire, damage estimates or how long the investigation will take.
Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the state has enough asphalt for repaving projects through this week, including Kamehameha Highway in Aiea, Kalanianaole Highway in Waimanalo and Kailua Road in Kailua.
However, projects such as resurfacing the 1.5-mile stretch of Kamehameha Highway between Castle Junction and the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery, and improvements to the 8-mile stretch of highway between Waiahole Valley Road and Crouching Lion may have to wait -- again.
"Like everyone else, we'll wait and see," Ishikawa said.
Hokama said that to meet immediate demand Tesoro would distribute the remaining 18,000 barrels of liquid asphalt that was in the storage tank and not contaminated by the fire.
"Short-term, we're OK, but I don't know yet about the long-term effects," Hokama said.
He said the company had supply for at least three days, but he did not know how long the storage tank, which can store 25,000 barrels of liquid asphalt, would be out of commission.
"We don't know how this will affect production, because the amount of time depends on the extent of the damages," Mukai said.
Tesoro officials estimate the demand for liquid asphalt in Hawaii at about 45,000 barrels a month, and company officials expect another shipment of crude oil July 5.
Major contractors such as Grace Pacific Corp. and James W. Glover Ltd. mix liquid asphalt they receive from Tesoro with aggregate to produce road asphalt.
"Refineries have small fires every now and then, so I doubt there will be much of a holdup," said Bob Wilkinson of Grace Pacific Corp., which provides asphalt for military, state and city projects. "But this may put us tight on asphalt again."