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Employee found dead after fire at Marathon Petroleum refinery

ST. PAUL PARK, Minn. (AP) -- An employee missing after a fire broke out in a fuel oil tank at the Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery has been found dead.

Company spokesman Robert Calmus said the body of Nick Gunter, 29, of Hastings was found Sunday afternoon inside the 10,000 barrel tank that caught fire. Gunter was an operator in the blending area of the refinery and had been with Marathon since January 2006.

"We kept trying to keep our hopes up," Calmus said Sunday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

The cause of Gunter's death was being investigated. Calmus said he may have been on top of the tank checking gauges when it exploded. Authorities were also investigating the cause of the fire, which was contained to the tank.

"We're going to work with local officials and people like OSHA and our own internal investigators to do everything we can to establish the cause" and prevent similar tragedies in the future, Calmus said.

He added that employees were being offered counseling to deal with the tragedy.

The fire did not halt operations at the St. Paul Park facility, Calmus said.

There hasn't been a fatality at the refinery since 1978, Calmus said. Marathon Petroleum did not own the refinery at that time.

The refinery has a capacity of 70,000 barrels per day, according to Marathon's Web site. The refinery processes crude oil from Canada and the United States into gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, jet fuel, kerosene, propane and asphalt. Most gasoline produced at the refinery is marketed locally at SuperAmerica stations.

Earlier in the week, an oil pipeline explosion near Clearbook in northern Minnesota killed two workers and briefly caused world oil prices to spike. The Enbridge Energy pipeline system in that area carries roughly 16 percent of U.S. crude imports.

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