Dike at fire-hit ITC chemical tanks in US' La Porte partially collapses

Source: ICIS News

2019/03/22

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The dike surrounding the fire-damaged chemical storage tanks at Intercontinental Terminals Company’s (ITC) facility in La Porte, Texas, has partially collapsed, government agencies said on Friday.

The Coast Guard has closed traffic on the water in the vicinity of Tucker Bayou and the ITC site, while the Deer Park local government has sent out a shelter-in-place notification to industrial neighbors and the San Jacinto Texas state historic site.

The large ITC fire, which began on 17 March, engulfed 11 above-ground storage tanks containing a variety of hydrocarbons.

The blaze was extinguished on Wednesday, but responders reported increased levels of benzene at the tank farm on Thursday morning.

The Deer Park government in a statement posted on its website said that the dike wall collapsed at around 12:15 hours local time on Friday, adding that the shelter-in-place it had announced does not include Deer Park city limits.

Action is now being taken to contain runoff from the breach with additional booms, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

“TCEQ is working to fully assess and mitigate any wider impact,” it said in a statement posted on its website on Friday.

“No threat to local public water systems has been detected, and no local water system draws its source water from the Houston Ship Channel, which is adjacent to the ITC site.”

The tanks impacted during the ITC fire are currently covered in a layer of foam, placed to prevent the emission of benzene vapors and other contaminants during the pumping process, according to the Deer Park government.

ITC in an update posted on its website earlier on Friday said that it is pumping product from the tanks involved now that the fire has been extinguished.

"This process involves submerging a pump under the foam, into the pyrolysis gasoline (pygas) contained within tank 80-7,” it said.

Air monitoring continues at the site, with readings as of 10:00 hours local time remaining “below action levels”, the company said.

No injuries have been reported because of the incident, according to ITC.

ITC Deer Park has total storage capacity of just over 13m barrels, according to the company’s website. Products are stored in tanks that range in size from 8,000 to 160,000 barrels.

Pictured: A plume of smoke rise from ITC's facility in Deer Park, 18 March 2019
Source: David J Phillip/AP/REX/Shutterstock