Five Deadliest Onshore Oil & Gas Blasts - Part 3

Tim Haïdar

The Romeoville Refinery Explosion


July 23, 1984

Romeoville, Will County, Illinois, USA

19 fatalities, 22 injured

Estimated cost
: $ ~530 million (repairs and compensation)

Details: At around 6pm, the 151,000 bpd Union Oil refinery was rocked by two thunderous consecutive explosions after the ignition of leaking gas from a 34-tonne storage tower.

Local residents recalled seeing a "bright mushroom cloud" emanating from the facility and the blast was so powerful that an aircraft flying at 1,500 feet was struck with red-hot debris. The ensuing inferno at the plant burned for a day at temperatures of 2,200 °C, prompting some workers to jump into the Illinois & Michigan Canal to escape the extreme heat, and claiming the lives of several firefighters.

In 1989, settlements for victims of the tragedy were approved to the tune of $29.9 million.