The petroleum refinery started in Puerto Rico in 1995, settled in Bayamon as CAPECO. Through time, ownership has changed following the purchase by Gulf Oil Corporation (1962), Chevron Corporation (1984), First Oil Corporation (1987) and last, Puma Energy Caribe (2011). It was used as a petroleum storage terminal and distribution facility for gasoline, fuel oil, jet and diesel fuel with an open space of 179 acres and 48 storage tanks. On the night of October 23, 2009 a large explosion occurred at the refinery which burned a total of 17 petroleum storage tanks.
It was a night shift when the employees were receiving the offloading of gasoline to store at the tanks. The received merchandise has to be distributed into 4 storage tanks that takes more than 24hours to fully complete. On October 22 approximately at 10pm, the operators were on the process to fully load the last tank and estimate to be done at 1am, but around 12 the gasoline of the tank was already overflowed and it was spilling out. Each tank has a tank operator that records the level every hour by observing the level gauge on the side of the tank. It seems that the tank operators weren’t following the procedures and the employees were filling the tanks manually and by eye. The explosion caused a massive fire that extended to other tanks that exploded too and made the situation worst. Three people were left injured. The blast and fire from multiple secondary explosions resulted in significant damage to the petroleum storage tanks and in neighborhoods and businesses offsite. The fires burned for almost 66 hours while emergency responders fought to control de fire.
CAPECO and the EPA collected and shipped offsite an estimated 171,000 gallons of oil and 22 million gallons of contact water. Overall, approximately 30 million gallons of petroleum were released via storm water channels, on-site and off-site surface water bodies, and neighboring wetlands to San Juan Bay. It was also found dead wildlife and both aquatic and avian species, including protected species covered in oil. In May 2010, CAPECO was required to pay more than $8.2 million for environmental liabilities. The day after the explosion, a lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court of San Juan against Caribbean Petroleum Corporation and MAPFRE Insurance Company. MAPFRE was later removed from the lawsuit. On December 11, 2009, a third joint lawsuit was presented against Caribbean Petroleum Corp. by 1,000 defendants seeking $500 million in damages.
On August 2010, Caribbean Petroleum Corporation filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. The company cited debts of $500 million to $1 billion, against assets of $100 million to $500 million, according to the filing. The filing came after the company failed to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency orders to clean the site of the explosion. Caribbean Petroleum claimed their financial situation prevented them from doing the work, and EPA took over the cleaning process.