UpdateOne dead, 73 injured in Louisiana cracker blast; fire out

13 June 2013 20:33  [Source: ICIS news]

US Williams Louisiana cracker experiences explosion(recasts lead; updates throughout)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--One person has died as a result of the explosion and fire at Williams’s ethane cracker in Geismar, Louisiana, governor Bobby Jindal announced at a Thursday afternoon press conference.

Some 73 people were injured in the incident at the olefins plant, located about 20 miles (32km) south of Baton Rouge, Jindal said. Earlier counts listed anywhere from 33 to 64 injuries from the incident.

Officials said it was too early to determine what exactly caused the explosion, which Williams spokesperson Tom Droege said occurred at about 08:37 local time (13:37 GMT). First-responders were dispatched shortly after, and the company initiated an emergency shutdown of valves at the site and isolated the unit where the incident occurred, he said.

An ethylene fire burned near the ground following the explosion, and residual propylene generated smoke from the affected cracker stack, said Jean Kelly, a spokesperson with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ).

State officials on Thursday afternoon said that the only flames at the site now were normal stack flares.

The LDEQ has finished its first round of air monitoring near the site, with readings registering “non-detect”, she said. The air monitoring area is being expanded now, she added.

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 office has mobilised a team to help.

US Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California) has asked the federal Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to investigate the matter as well. The CSB is “assessing the explosion”, she said in a press statement.

The Geismar facility annually produces about 1.3bn lb of ethylene and 90m lb of polymer-grade propylene (PGP), according to the company’s website. 

The plant had been in the middle of a turnaround as it expands its ethylene capacity to 885,000 tonnes/year from 613,000 tonnes/year, officials said.

By: Jeremy Pafford
+1 713 525 2653

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