TCC Meeting Hears Details Of Deer Park Shell Explosion

22 June 1998 00:00  [Source: ICB Americas]

By Don Richards

The final report from Shell Chemical Company, Occupational Safety & Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency on the explosion and fire at Shell's giant steam cracker in Deer Park last year will be released to the public by July 1.

This is the word from Shell, OSHA and EPA officials who took part in a session at the annual safety seminar of the Texas Chemical Council and the Association of the Chemical Industry of Texas, in cooperation with the Louisiana Chemical Association, held in the Woodlands.

The Shell blast, which occurred June 22, 1997 at the company's 2.1-billion-pound ethylene complex, was heard and felt as far as 25 miles away (CMR, 6/30/97, pg. 5). The plant was restarted last February.

While no evacuation was ordered, for a time those living up to a mile north of the plant were advised to remain inside. One Shell employee was examined for chest pains and released at a nearby hospital.

Darren Martin of Shell Chemical, who acted as liaison with the government agencies, noted that even though the accident happened at 10 A.M. on a Sunday, both OSHA and EPA were at site shortly thereafter.

Mark Briggs of OSHA told the seminar that he was on the scene at 12:30, and Steve Mason of EPA said his agency was on site coordinating with the other groups within two hours. As the investigation progressed, representatives from Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers International Union participated in all aspects.

Some key points agreed upon early in the investigation were that the company could not move, alter or rearrange any physical object without OSHA's consent, and that physical objects had to be secured and controlled in evidence areas.

Further, Shell agreed with OSHA to preserve all documents existing at the time of the incident and to take additional security action, based on OSHA's observations, for a six-month period.

Other lessons learned were that an outside company to do demolition [of damaged equipment] should have been brought in. In addition, there was was no in-house engineer to do demolition assessment.

Further, according to Mr. Martin, the company brought in contract security guards, determined the size of the affected area and developed plans to protect evidence.

He says that OSHA's expectations included access to the incident site, timely access to all facts and documents related to the incident, and timely access to employees and contractors for interviews.

Further, the agency wanted to review any plans to address the site of the incident, access to knowledgeable resources, and establish daily contact with the company decision maker--in this case, Mr. Martin.

From the time the upset happened, it took OSHA about three-and-a-half months to conclude its on-site investigation. As of the time of the TCC/ACIT meeting, EPA was still reviewing documents.Houston Roundup

LA PORTE BONDS: Standard & Poor's has assigned its single-'A'-plus rating to La Porte's G.O. bonds series 1998 dated June 15, 1998, and due March 15, 2019. The bonds go on sale June 22.

S&P says the rating reflects a stable but concentrated petrochemical economic base with access to the greater Houston job market, a reduced debt burden and rapid debt retirement.

La Porte is on the Houston Ship Channel and has a petrochemical-based economy. PPG Industries Inc. has announced a $50 million plant expansion, and Millennium has completed a $400 million plant expansion.

BORDEN LAWSUIT: Borden Chemicals & Plastics LP has settled a lawsuit with Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (CMR, 3/16/98, pg. 8).

Judge John Parker, of the US Middle District Court of Louisiana, signed the settlement on June 11. BCP will pay a $3.6 million fine and $400,000 for an environmental project. At issue were hazardous waste violations at the firm's Geismar, La., vinyl plant.

NGC IS NOW DYNEGY: Houston's NGC Corporation has changed its name to Dynegy and adopted new logos in an effort to consolidate all of its energy businesses under one corporate identity. The name is a hybrid of the words dynamic and energy. NGC's name had derived from its previous designation of Natural Gas Clearinghouse.

The company's current businesses include natural gas, power, crude oil and coal marketing, as well as natural gas liquids production and marketing. Warren Petroleum Company will be known as Dynegy Midstream Services LP.

RRC'S NEW CHAIRMAN--Railroad Commission of Texas member Carole Keeton Rylander, the Republican nominee for state comptroller, has been voted chairman of the panel by fellow members Barry Williamson and Charles Matthews.

Ms. Rylander has served on the commission since December 1994. She was chairman from November 1995 to January 1997. She succeeds Mr. Matthews in the job that rotates among the three members.

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