US chem safety board seeks ‘critical’ test at Geismar blast site

25 July 2013 16:57  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Williams continues to work with the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and the Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) as the investigation into the deadly 13 June explosion and fire at the company’s ethane cracker in Geismar, Louisiana, a spokesperson for US producer said on Thursday.

“The CSB and OSHA have control of the exclusion zone, and we’re working with them,” said Williams’ Keith Isbell.

CSB investigators have entered the exclusion zone, or blast area, multiple times, said Dan Tillema, CSB’s lead investigator into the Williams Olefins explosion in which two people died and more than 70 were injured.

The next step will be to remove overhead hazards so that the affected equipment can be removed, he said.

“Once in examination area, we can begin to develop a metallurgical testing plan,” Tillema said. “Metallurgical testing will be critical to understand how and why the equipment failed.”

The explosion occurred in the propylene fractionator, but its cause remains unknown, Williams and government officials have said.

Measures have been taken to prevent further deterioration of the failed equipment until it can be removed from the unit and examined, Tillema said.

The CSB is reviewing documents supplied by Williams and other parties and conducting interviews in regard to the explosion, and based on the board’s findings could request more documents and interviews in the coming days, he said.

The Geismar facility annually produces about 1.3bn lb (590,000 tonnes) 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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