Safety panel cites failures in Formosa Texas fire

20 July 2006 15:01  [Source: ICIS news]

The Formosa Plastics explosion injured 16 workersWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Chemical Safety Board said on Thursday that failure to protect a drain valve at the Formosa Plastics plant at Point Comfort, Texas late last year turned what should have been a minor incident into a disaster.


In its final report on the 6 October 2005 fire and explosions that injured 16 workers and heavily damaged the site’s Olefins 2 plant, the safety board confirmed Formosa’s own findings that a forklift towing a trailer accidentally snagged a drain valve, tearing it open.


“This caused the release of a large volume of propylene which then ignited, creating a large fire,” the board said. That fire weakened nearby steel supports that were not fireproofed, causing their collapse and the rupture of other pipes carrying pressurized flammable gases which continued to feed the fire. It took five days for the fire to burn out.


“This began with a seemingly minor event but the incident had disastrous consequences because the facility was not better prepared for a large chemical release,” said board member John Bresland.


The safety board said Formosa Plastics should revise its procedures for analyzing hazards, including vehicle impact risks and the need for structural fireproofing. It also recommended that the company develop means for remote shut-off of ruptured vessels and piping and that the company provide fire-resistant clothing to workers exposed to potential flash fires.


The board also recommended that Kellogg, Brown & Root, the company that designed the Point Comfort facility, update design plans to include the most current safety standards.


The board is holding a press conference in Houston, Texas on Thursday to detail results of its investigation.

By: Joe Kamalick
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