Fluoride Action Network

Explosion, large fire at Texas City plant

Source: MRT | April 19th, 2018 | By Brooke A. Lewis, Jay R. Jordan, and Mark Collette
Location: United States, Texas
Industry type: Oil Refineries

A large fire broke out Thursday afternoon at a Texas City plant, city officials said.

The explosion was reported at the Valero plant on Loop 197 in Texas City, officials said. Witnesses said the explosion happened around 4:45 p.m.

The fire has been contained but fire crews will remain on site until it is fully extinguished, according to city officials.

Texas City Emergency Management sent an automated messaging around 5:30 p.m. saying light hydrocarbons were on fire at the Valero plant.

The company said all of their personnel are accounted for, and no injuries have been reported, according to city officials.

Michael Larsson, who was working at a Marathon Oil plant nearby, said his plant is under a shelter-in-place order still as of 5:30 p.m., nearly an hour after the explosion.

“The whole building shook,” Larsson said. “I could feel the building vibrate. This office building I’m in is made for these type of events, so I knew it must be something pretty serious when the building shakes.”

The city is also not under a shelter in place order, but have advised residents to stay clear of the area.

About 27,000 people live within three miles of the plant, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Chemicals stored there, according to regulatory filings, include at least 280,000 pounds of hydrogen fluoride, one of the most deadly compounds used in refining and capable of spreading large distances in a release. It’s a frequent target of reformers advocating for the use of safer chemicals.

In the site’s risk management plan, a worst-case scenario involves a release of hydrogen fluoride traveling up to 22 miles.

The refinery uses millions of pounds of flammables, too.

A boiler failure at the refinery in 2009 left one man dead from blunt force trauma and two other workers hurt.

The refinery has no chemical safety violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the last five years. It was penalized for two serious violations related to ladder safety in 2016.

Since acquiring the refinery in 1997, Valero has invested more than $750 million in expansions and upgrades, according to the company. It employs about 480 people, and the workforce is not unionized.

Disruptions to the refinery could ripple beyond Texas City. The plant provides feedstocks to Valero’s other Gulf Coast operations, and it’s connected by pipeline to the Valero Houston Refinery.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has penalized the plant at least two dozen times for air permit violations since 1997.

A LOOK BACK: See historic images from the deadly 1947 explosion in Texas City

*Original article online at https://www.mrt.com/houston/article/Reports-Plant-fire-at-Texas-City-12849010.php