More than 60,000 lb of chems released after Williams cracker blast

26 June 2013 17:42 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The 13 June explosion and fire at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, Louisiana, resulted in the emission and flaring of more than 31,000 lb (14,000 kg) of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and more than 23,000 lb of propylene among many others, according to documents obtained on Wednesday.

In a release report submitted to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), the US producer listed more than 62,000 lb of chemicals emitted from the accident, which ended in two deaths and more than 70 injuries.

According to Williams, released and flared were 31,186.99 lb of VOCs, 23,089.88 lb of propylene, 2,397.91 lb of ethylene, 539.88 lb of nitrous oxide (NOx), 537.80 lb of carbon monoxide (CO), 88.35 lb of soot/particulate matter, 47.91 lb of benzene, 30.49 lb of 1,3-butadiene (BD) and 5,620.80 lb of VOCs not listed such as propane.

Much of the releases were above the limits allowed by state law, but Williams said the emissions were the result of an upset and thus were not subject to a permit.

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”.

Officials with Williams as well as state and federal investigators have said the cause of the blast has not been determined as of yet. The plant remains off line as the investigation and assessment of needed repairs continues.

Williams officials have said the blast occurred at about 08:37 local time on 13 June in the propylene fractionator, with liquid and vaporised hydrocarbons released at the base of the fractionator during the fire.

The fire was extinguished about noon, and Williams began flaring at about 16:30, the report to the LDEQ states.

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