Fire extinguished at US chemicals depot

Article by Adam Duckett

AFTER three days fighting a fire that was spreading through a chemicals storage depot in Texas, US, the blaze has now been extinguished.

The fire at the Deer Park facility run by Intercontinental Terminals (ITC), started on 17 March and burned through ten tanks, including ones storing naphtha, xylene, toluene, pyrolysis gasoline, and base oil. ITC reported that as of 03:00 local time today the fire had been extinguished.

Asked what caused the incident, ITC said that there is no official line yet other than there was “a leak and source of ignition” and that a root cause analysis will follow. There is also currently no available estimate on the volume of product lost in the fire.

At its height, emergency responders were simultaneously fighting fires in eight tanks. No one has been hurt in the incident at the 242-tank facility, which has a storage capacity of 13.1m bbl, and air quality readings from around the region were below levels that would present a public health concern.

The ITC blaze came just a day after a short-lived fire broke out less than 10 km away at ExxonMobil’s Baytown refinery.

In response, Elena Craft, Senior Director for Health and Climate at the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund wrote a scathing assessment of the state agency responsible for ensuring chemical plant safety, alleging it is “unable or unwilling” to protect the public’s health and wellbeing. Writing for the Houston Chronicle she raised concerns about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) performance, saying it is not holding industry accountable and is allowing it to self-regulate.

At the storage depot, while firefighters continue spraying foam and water on the tanks to cool them, ITC has warned that the risk remains that the fire will reignite.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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