Storage tank fire halts production of asphalt
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Suzanne Roig
A smoldering fire yesterday halted operations at Tesoro Hawaii, just four days after the state's only producer of asphalt had resumed production after a three-week shutdown.
There is enough asphalt on hand for this week's state Department of Transportation roadwork and other projects, officials said. The longer-term impact will not be determined until Tesoro officials assess the damage.
The fire was discovered at 11:40 a.m. yesterday in a liquid asphalt storage tank, said Nathan Hokama, Tesoro spokesman. He noted that the tank never burst into flames.
The company evacuated workers from the tank farm area at Campbell Industrial Park, Hokama said. No one was injured.
"We don't know if there is any damage to the tank," he said. "We just started (back) on production shortly after we got our delivery on June 8. We don't know what caused the smoldering."
The Honolulu Fire Department monitored the tank until the smoldering ceased.
The company has 18,000 barrels of liquid asphalt in the tank, which should be more than enough to meet immediate needs of its customers, he said.
"We've checked with our customers and they said they will need a total of about 7,000 barrels over the next three days," he said.
After the tank is emptied, Hokama said, the company will assess the damage and determine when production will start again.
"We are prepared to go 24-7 providing asphalt to customers so we can get the tank emptied faster."
Tesoro ran out of liquid asphalt materials May 12, which halted work on potholes and other road projects. Production resumed last week after a shipment of heavy crude oil arrived.
Heavy crude oil is heated and mixed with crushed rock, called aggregate, to make asphalt. It can be used to build roads, driveways and parking lots and to fill potholes.
The shortage hindered contractors and others who pave roads and are fixing potholes caused by heavy rain during February and March.
Larry Leopardi, director of the city's Division of Road Maintenance, said a new shortage would jeopardize plans to begin today to repave parts of roads leading to farm lots in Waimanalo.
"If we can't get asphalt, then we can't do the work," he said.
Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said work crews began repaving parts of Kalaniana'ole Highway in Waimanalo yesterday after work stalled for three weeks. Ishikawa said he was assured by the company contracted to do the paving work that there is enough to finish jobs through the end of the week.
Crews also were set to begin repaving parts of Kamehameha Highway today in the Pearl City-'Aiea area.
But the status of next week's roadwork is uncertain.
Paving projects that could be affected include:
"We're still trying to figure out how this would interfere with our paving schedule," Ishikawa said. "We also have a couple of other paving projects scheduled to start next week."
Bob Wilkinson, president and chief executive of Grace Pacific, a major user of road asphalt, said it was unlikely the fire would greatly affect the supply.
"We don't know whether there will be a slowdown," he said. "However, this fire lasted about 15 minutes, so maybe it will cause a short break. But I don't think there will be anything long."
Tesoro became the state's only supplier of asphalt after Chevron Hawaii stopped production. Since then Tesoro has said it would spend almost $1 million to improve its liquid asphalt storage capacity.Advertiser staff writer John Windrow contributed to this report.
Reach Suzanne Roig at email@example.com.