UpdateWilliams plant 'not processing' anything after blast; lawsuit filed

14 June 2013 19:45  [Source: ICIS news]

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HOUSTON (ICIS)--Williams' ethane cracker in Geismar, Louisiana, remained offline on Friday following Thursday’s explosion and fire that left one person dead and 77 people injured.

“We are not processing or manufacturing anything at this point,” said plant manager Larry Bayer.

Williams officials identified the person who died in the accident as 29-year-old Zachary Green of Hammond, Louisiana, a plant operator who had been employed since October.

“We are grieving for the loss of Zack, who was part of our Williams community, said Williams CEO Alan Armstrong. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of sorrow. We also remain deeply concerned about Williams’ personnel and contractors who sustained injuries, some quite serious.”

Baton Rouge General Hospital officials said on Friday morning that four people were still being treated there for burns sustained in the accident, including one person in critical condition. Other area hospitals received several patients for treatment as well.

At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Williams officials said it was unknown at present the extent of the damage caused by Thursday’s explosion and fire, as well as when the plant would return to operation.

Some 77 people were injured in the incident at the olefins plant, located about 20 miles (32km) south of Baton Rouge, Williams officials said on Friday. Earlier counts listed anywhere from 33 to 73 injuries from the incident.

The blast occurred at about 08:37 local time (13:37 GMT) Thursday. 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.

The chemicals that caught fire were propylene and propane, Bayer said.

The fire was extinguished at about 14:00 local time Thursday, Williams officials said.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has emergency personnel on the scene and is coordinating with the LDEQ and multiple state and local partners in the response, said Jennah Durant, a spokesperson with the EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas, Texas.

The EPA began conducting air monitoring around the facility on Thursday afternoon and have continued into Friday, as has the LDEQ, Durant said. No air quality “levels of concerns to the surrounding community” have been detected, she said.

US Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California) has asked the federal Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to investigate the matter as well.

The CSB said on Friday that it is still assessing the situation and plans to make a decision on whether to get involved by day’s end.

Also on Friday, a man who was working at a nearby BASF plant when the blast occurred filed a lawsuit in 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension Parish, claiming Williams was negligent in the accident.

Galen Mitchell claims in the lawsuit to have suffered throat burns and sinus problems from breathing in fumes from the blast and fire. Court documents state that he was on a scaffold when the explosion occurred.

Mitchell is asking that the lawsuit be certified as class action.

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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