Thursday 31 August 2017

Chemcial plant near Houston about to explode

1.5 mile radius around Crosby plant evacuated amid risk of explosion

August 29, 2017 09:35PM

CROSBY, Texas (KTRK) -- Officials have evacuated workers and residents within a 1.5 mile radius from the Arkema site in Crosby as flooding has created a risk of a chemical reaction leading to fire or possible explosion.

According to plant officials, the situation has become serious.

The plant has been shut down since Friday when site leaders were anticipating landfall of Hurricane Harvey. The location received more than 40 inches of rainfall, leaving the site heavily flooded and without electricity since early Sunday morning.

Back-up generators have largely been inundated with water. A small ride-out crew of 11 people remained on site for the last few days, but by Tuesday afternoon, the decision to evacuate all personnel was made.

Arkema officials are working with the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Texas to set up a command post in a suitable location near the site. Refrigeration on some of the back-up product storage containers has been compromised due to extremely high water, which is unprecedented in the Crosby area.

Authorities are monitoring the temperature of each refrigeration container remotely. At this time, they say they do not believe there is any imminent danger, but the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real.

Arkema manufactures organic peroxides at their Crosby plant. The product needs to be stored at a low temperature.

Chemicals at plant near Houston degrading, explosion inevitable – CEO
Chemicals at plant near Houston degrading, explosion inevitable – CEO
30 August, 2017

The refrigeration system at the chemical plant, which produces organic peroxides for the plastics and rubber industries, has failed due to the Harvey flooding, the company said.

Arkema first warned residents about the possibility of an explosion at the facility Tuesday.

At this time, while we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real,” the company said Tuesday.

That day, residents within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby were evacuated as a “precautionary measure,” the local fire marshal’s office said in a Twitter message.

The plant was heavily flooded and has been without electricity since Sunday, Arkema confirmed.

Organic peroxides need to be kept cool, otherwise they may explode. The plant’s employees initially tried to move the volatile chemicals from warehouses into refrigerated containers powered by backup generators, but as the flooding intensified, some of the generators failed and the company decided to evacuate all workers on Tuesday.

Facility managers said they were monitoring the temperature levels remotely, and working with officials from the Department of Homeland Security.

Many homes and businesses are within two miles (3.2 km) of the facility.

Arkema’s Crosby facility is among the Houston-area sites with the highest potential for harm in an incident, according to a 2016 analysis by Texas A&M’s Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center and the Houston Chronicle.

It would be surprising if the company had not considered a scenario like this, the Chronicle cited Sam Mannan of Texas A&M University’s Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center.

Companies typically would have the ability to quench the organic peroxides in situations like this with another chemical so it’s no longer dangerous.

You’ll lose the feedstock but it’s safer than letting it go into runaway mode,” Mannan said.

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