Chemical companies review lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey

Article by Amanda Doyle

AN INDUSTRY forum held in Texas has discussed the response of chemical companies to Hurricane Harvey and how a coastal protection system is vital to ensure the safety of chemical plants during future flooding.

Harvey caused extreme flooding in Texas in August 2017, forcing several oil and chemical facilities to shut down and causing a chemical fire at Arkema’s organic peroxide plant.

Hurricane Harvey: Lessons Learned was held on 5 March in Pasadena, Texas, by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Texas Chemical Council (TCC). According to media reports, the forum discussed the importance of industry’s response in assisting the surrounding communities, how industry worked to protect the environment during storm-related chemical fires, how to improve infrastructure to protect chemical plants in the future, and the importance of information sharing between industry, government, and local communities.

Executives from major chemical companies explained how they dealt with their facilities, what they learned from it, and how they expect to deal with future events. The panellists included Bob Patel from LyondellBasell, Jim Fitterling from DowDuPont, Jerry MacCleary from Covestro, and Ken Reid from BASF.  

Senator Ted Cruz spoke to the attendees about hurricane safety and how the US Army Corps of Engineers will begin studying the feasibility of a coastal barrier system. Senators Brandon Creighton and Larry Taylor emphasised in a later session that federal funding is crucial in order to improve the infrastructure and prevent future flooding and storm-related chemical fires.

Taylor spoke of the coastal spine project, which has an estimated cost of US$14bn. The project would create a network of seawalls, levies, and floodgates to limit the effects of hurricane-induced storm surges in the Galveston Bay area.

For a personal account of how chemical engineers dealt with the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, see Surviving the storm.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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