UpdateFire at US Westlake VCM plant extinguished

22 March 2012 20:23  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A fire at Westlake’s Louisiana vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plant in Geismar was extinguished and an investigation into the cause of the blaze is underway, the company said on Thursday.

“We are continuing to assess the situation,” said Westlake spokesman Dave Hansen. “The potential environmental impact is under review and we are cooperating with state and federal authorities in an effort to measure and monitor the environment.”

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Jean Kelly said the agency was monitoring air quality around the plant but had yet to detect any offsite impact.

Kelly said Westlake confirmed that an explosion and subsequent fire released VCM, hydrochloric acid and chlorine gas, but the amounts were unknown.

The plant has a capacity of 550m lb/year (250,000 tonnes/year), according to the company. All of the VCM lines were shut down, Kelly said.

DEQ investigators were expected to remain on site at least through Friday morning, Kelly said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also monitoring the situation, Kelley said.

The explosion occurred around 0800 hours Louisiana time (1300 hours GMT) and the fire was contained at about an hour and 20 minutes later, said Lester Kenyon, a spokesman for Ascension Parish.

Part of the Mississippi river was temporarily closed to traffic on Thursday, Kenyon said.

Westlake did not confirm the extent of damage or any effect on production.

Hansen said all plant personnel have been accounted for and there were no injuries.

By: Ken Fountain

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