Explosion at Irving Oil Refinery Rattles Saint John

(Photo by Jill Lanteigne)

By Lura Jackson


Thanksgiving took on new meaning to the Saint John community following an explosion at the Irving Oil Refinery on Monday morning. The explosion, which reportedly took place in the facility’s hydrogen unit, resulted in the hospitalization of four contractors, all of whom were treated for non-life threatening injuries at Saint John Regional Hospital. The refinery has since been stabilized and work has resumed.

The explosion was heard for several kilometers around the facility, prompting a significant amount of concern in the community. The facility employs approximately 1,400 people in addition to a regular contingent of contractors, many of whom were on-site to conduct a scheduled turnaround to conduct maintenance. The Saint John Fire Department and Police Department immediately responded to contain the situation while ambulances arrived en masse to provide treatment and transport to the wounded.

Saint John’s Emergency Management Organization announced a few hours later that the fire had been contained. Emergency personnel remained at the scene in the event of any flare-ups. With the catastrophic danger averted, the New Brunswick Departments of Environment and Local Government and Health began its focusing on assessing air quality to ensure that there was no danger to the residents living nearby. Irving announced that its continuous air monitoring had identified no concerns related to air quality.

“We can confirm that the refinery as a whole is safe and the specific site of the incident is isolated and contained,” Irving stated in a release on Tuesday morning.


The Saint John Irving facility is capable of refining up to 320,000 gallons a day of petroleum products, making it the largest provider of oil to the Northeast region. Gasoline trading prices rose in response to the news, while diesel prices were unaffected. According to S&P Global, gasoline and diesel stocks in New England are currently oversupplied. 4.638 million barrels of gasoline are in stock, along with 6.327 million diesel - representing an all-time high since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began tracking the data in 2004.