Five-Year Milestone Reflects El Paso Refinery Team’s Dedication to Rail Safety

Dec 12, 2023 10:00 AM ET
  • Marathon Petroleum’s El Paso, Texas, refinery has gone more than five years without being cited for safety or equipment defects in any railcar that left the refinery.
  • The refinery’s rail loading rack team is responsible for inspecting arriving tank cars to make sure they are secure, in proper condition and safe for transportation when shipped out.
  • All railcars leaving the refinery are subject to random inspections by the Federal Railroad Administration.

As many as 25 railroad tank cars a day pass through Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC) El Paso, Texas, refinery to deliver feedstock or be loaded with finished product, helping meet the world’s need for reliable, responsibly produced energy. Currently, each day adds to the milestone the refinery recently reached by completing five years without Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) inspectors citing a safety or equipment defect in any railcar that left the site.

“A damaged railcar needs to be repaired before we ship it out. If not, there could be safety issues, and the refinery could get fined,” said Operator Eddie Baquera, who is one of 11 operators working at the refinery’s rail loading racks.

These operators are responsible for visually examining tank cars when they arrive. They look for safety hazards, such as broken or bent ladder rungs, and equipment defects, which could include bad gaskets on manway openings that would pose a risk of leaks. If operators see any defects or damage, the cars must be rejected back to the delivering carrier.

During and after the loading and unloading of tank cars that are accepted, operators focus on making sure the cars are secure, in proper condition and safe for transportation. If any defects are found, operators request repairs from a trained and certified, third-party mobile repair team that is on site. All railcars that leave the refinery could be further scrutinized by the FRA.

“The FRA inspectors get a list of all railcars that are ready for shipment and could pick a certain number of them, or all of them, for random inspections at nearby rail yards,” Baquera said.

Reaching the five-year milestone reflects tremendous discipline by the loading rack team according to Day Foreman Diego Gonzalez. He praised the team’s dedication to consistently maintaining routines and procedures under conditions that can change from day to day.

“Loading and unloading is very physical work, and this is all done in the elements through extreme heat and cold, rain, snow and dusty winds,” Gonzalez said. “There are 1 million reasons to be proud of them.”