Texas chemical plant fire injures 21

Article by Amanda Doyle

A fire at the Kuraray America chemical facility in Pasadena, Texas, US, on 19 May has injured 21 workers.

Preliminary findings indicate that a pressure safety valve failed, releasing ethylene which caused a flash fire. At the time of the incident, 266 employees and contractors were on site and 21 workers were injured, including burns and injuries from falling or jumping from scaffolding to escape the fire. The latest local reports state that all but one of the injured workers have been released from hospital.

“On behalf of Kuraray America, we send our thoughts and prayers to those who were injured and impacted by today’s incident,” said Eric Bass, plant manager of the EVAL facility of Kuraray. “Our team is committed to determining the cause of the incident.”

The facility manufactures ethylene vinyl-alcohol copolymers (EVOH), sold as EVAL, which is used in items such as household food packaging, plastic fuel tanks, and home heating pipes. It is the world’s largest EVOH plant with a total capacity of 47,000 t/y and it is currently planning an expansion to boost its production to 58,000 t/y by 2019.

Several of the injured workers have filed lawsuits against Kuraray America for medical expenses and lost wages, accusing the company of gross negligence and failing to enforce safety regulations. Another lawsuit blocked the plant owners from tampering with the suspected valve and any other evidence relating to the incident. The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is also investigating the incident.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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