STAR-BULLETIN / 2006
Investigators hope to determine what sparked a blaze last week to Tesoro Hawaii's only container of liquid asphalt. Damage to the container is visible at left.
Tesoro investigating cause of fire at liquid asphalt tank
Engineers with Tesoro Hawaii yesterday began investigating last week's fire at the company's only container of liquid asphalt after two contractors helped drain the 25,000-barrel tank.
Investigators hope to determine what sparked the blaze and assess damage, said company spokesman Nathan Hokama.
Because the process could take "several months," Tesoro -- the state's sole provider of the high-demand material -- will try to complete a $1 million reconfiguration of another tank by early July, about a month ahead of schedule, Hokama said.
"We are telling our customers that liquid asphalt will be available in early July," he said.
Until then the island's two major contractors for road projects, Grace Pacific Corp. and James W. Glover Ltd., will need to make the most of an estimated 500 tons of asphalt left in each of their reserves. The companies agreed to split the final 5,700 barrels of liquid asphalt they sucked from the burned tank, which had about 18,000 barrels when the fire broke out at Campbell Industrial Park on the afternoon of June 13.
Tesoro will wait for the end of the investigation to decide whether to continue using the container to store the liquid, which is mixed with aggregate to make road asphalt.
Grace Pacific will stop shipping asphalt to the neighbor islands to conserve its supply, which is enough for four to five days of work and is being stored at Chevron Hawaii, said Bob Wilkinson, the company's president and chief executive officer.
"We may run out; we will be tight," said Wilkinson, whose company does roadwork for the state and the federal government. "We'll try to keep some airport jobs that are really high priority."
Calls made yesterday to Glover to check whether the fire at the refinery could affect its projects were not returned. In case of a shortage, the state Department of Transportation will give priority to the resurfacing of a taxiway at Honolulu Airport, said spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
State projects that could be delayed include the resurfacing of a 7.5-mile stretch of Kamehameha Highway from Waiahole to Crouching Lion, as well as a 1.5-mile portion of the highway between the State Veterans' Cemetery and the Castle Junction. Road repairs to a 3.5-mile stretch of Farrington Highway through Waipahu could also be affected, Ishikawa said.
"We are going to keep going until Grace tells us we don't have enough asphalt," he said.
The reconfigured Tesoro tank that officials want to complete next month will hold 100,000 barrels of liquid asphalt, four times more than current capacity, Hokama said.
Tesoro decided to increase its storage capacity for the material late last year, when Chevron announced it was ceasing production because it had started using a lighter type of crude oil. The company switched because the federal government is requiring refiners to produce gasoline and diesel that have a lower sulfur content.