US Williams issued order over Geismar, previous emission events

03 July 2013 22:29  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Williams Olefins has been issued a compliance order from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) over chemical releases dating back as far as 2007 and including emissions that occurred during and after 13 June’s deadly fire and explosion at the producer’s Geismar plant, according to documents made available on Wednesday.

On 27 June, Williams was given 60 days to submit a report to the LDEQ listing all air quality permit violations in regard to last month’s explosion and fire, from which two died and more than 70 were injured.

Previously, Williams had reported that the Geismar plant released and flared more than 31,000 lb (14,000 kg) of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and more than 23,000 lb of propylene, among many others, during the explosion event.

In correspondence submitted later to the LDEQ, Williams reported the unauthorised release of 80,000 lbs of ethylene and 53,000 lbs of ethane from the ethylene fractionator safety relief valve a day after the explosion, according to the compliance order. Residual hydrocarbons in the fractionator system warmed while the facility was shut down, resulting in the safety pressure valve lifting for about 16 minutes, the compliance order states.

Williams did not immediately return a call on Wednesday for comment on the compliance order.

The company has said that the emissions resulting from the explosion and fire were the result of an upset and thus were not subject to air permit regulations.

Under Louisiana law, releases can be deemed from an upset if it is found that the emissions did not occur because of “improperly designed equipment, lack of preventative maintenance, careless or improper operation, or operator error”.

Williams, as well as federal and state officials, have said that the cause of the explosion, which occurred in the propylene fractionator, is unknown at this point.

Because the cause is unknown, Williams has not yet proved that an upset that caused the accident, and therefore must provide evidence to the LDEQ proving that, the compliance order states.

Also, Williams has been ordered by the LDEQ to submit a report within 60 days, providing additional information on a host of previous incidents that the company previously reported to the agency.

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. 

The plant remains shut down, and no timetable for repairs and a restart of operations has been given.

By: Jeremy Pafford
+1 713 525 2653

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