Texas plant explosion inevitable - Arkema

31 August 2017 10:23 Source:ICIS News

Arkema Crosby plant, Google EarthArkema's plant is located in Crosby, east of Houston. Residents within a 2.4 kilometres radio have been evacuated in anticipation of the explosion. Source:. Google Maps

LONDON (ICIS)--An explosion at Arkema's liquid organic peroxides plant in Crosby, Texas, is unavoidable due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey impeding the cooling of chemicals at the plant, a spokesperson for the French chemical major said on Thursday.

In an update on Wednesdays (30 August), the company had said alternative diesel-powered refrigerators were being used, although already at the time spoke of a “real” risk of explosion as all electricity has been cut off, but the risk has become more conclusive since then, according to a spokesperson for Arkema.

“Unfortunately, yes [the plant will catch fire]. The cooling system is not working anymore, so the temperature is rising up and these products will decompose and will catch fire,” said the Arkema spokesperson in an update to ICIS on Thursday at 9:30 London time.

However, it added the timing of the explosion was difficult to predict.

While the company continues to monitor the rising temperatures, the spokesperson said the monitoring system’s batteries would also switch off when they run out of power.

“When the batteries die, we will not have any information related to the rising temperature. It is difficult to predict when the fire will start.”

The spokesperson said the company has not yet evaluated the financial impact from the upcoming accident nor the time it will take to rebuild the facility.

“It will depends on the damages but it’s too early to have this question in mind. First, [we need to establish] what happened, what will happen and what impact will have,” it concluded.

As a precautionary measure, local authorities had already ordered late on 29 August the evacuation of all residents within a 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometres) radio from the plant. Crosby is a small town east of Houston.

According to the company’s website, the Crosby facility employs 57. Its exact location is 18000 Crosby Eastgate Road, Crosby, Texas.

Among other organic peroxides, Arkema produces at its Crosby plant plastic resins, polystyrene (PS), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyester reinforced fibreglass, as well as acrylic resin.

Several chemical plants in Texas have been affected by Harvey, with many shut since 25 August. The tropical storm is now heading to neighbouring US state of Louisiana.  

Hurricane Harvey has caused widespread disruption in Texas and the wider US as the southern state is a key producer and distributor of crude oil and derivatives.

According to US-based forecaster AccuWeather, the financial impact from the storm could reach $160bn.

By Jonathan Lopez