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You can't say they didn't warn us: this afternoon, the VP of US manufacturing Daryl Roberts at French chemicals giant Arkema, said the company was on "high alert" as more fires could start at the doomed facility at any moment. Well, that moment took place around 6pm ET, when ABC Houston reported that the doomed Arkema plant has exploded, causing a "massive" fire and "sending dark, black smoke into the air." Wow. Chemical plant catches fire in Crosby, Texas. Take a look. #ABC13 #hounews pic.twitter.com/ZXT1MVKVHo — Steve Campion (@SteveABC13) September 1, 2017 According to reports on the ground, light winds are not pushing into areas around the plant, but there is concern the smoke could injure others. The smoke could be seen in the residential Newport area of Crosby, about 7 miles away. Harris County officials are advising residents who did not evacuate the 1.5-mile area around the plant to close their windows and turn off their air conditioning systems. "You could call this a warning sign that more explosions or fires could be coming soon," Jeff Carr, a spokesman for Arkema, told the Houston Chronicle. Hazardous materials crews are headed to the scene. Harris County Hazmat trucks have arrived and are moving into the evacuation zone. pic.twitter.com/fAYsnEBBCe — Jacob Rascon (@Jacobnbc) September 1, 2017 Rachel Moreno at the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said that the explosion was a result of the product inside the trailers reaching its combustion state, which is causing the black smoke. She said that residents should be safe if they adhere to the one-and-a-half mile evacuation zone, and advised those who are near the site to shelter in place, close all their windows and turn off their air conditioning. Moreno said no change was made to the evacuation zone. This is the second of nine trailers at the plant that has caught fire. The trailers each contain liquid organic peroxides, which needs to be cooled to a certain temperature, otherwise it will explode. Officials said that three of the nine trailers have lost power, according to KPRC. At least 18 people have been injured since the first fire earlier in the week. One of the injured complained of a burning sensation in the eyes and throat and was still feeling the effects, days later. As reported this afternoon, the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office has ordered residents within a one-and-a-half mile radius to evacuate the area. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Arkema President and CEO Rich Rowe said he fully expects the remaining trailers to catch fire, adding the best course of action would be to let the trailers “burn out.” “The only recourse is to let the eight containers burn out," Rowe said, according to ABC News. "It’s 500,000 pounds of material; let that material burn out." As reported previously, plant officials said they expected the explosion and fire as chemicals began to heat up after the plant lost power during this week's flood. There are nine containers with 500,000 pounds of material inside. One of the containers already burned. Earlier this week, officials evacuated workers and residents within a 1.5-mile radius from the plant after flooding which the company says could lead to a massive fire or explosion. On Thursday morning, members of the media were not let within a 2-mile perimeter of the plant as authorities investigated the incident, while nearby residents were briefly advised to shelter-in-place. The plant makes organic peroxides, some that need to be constantly refrigerated. When they aren't, they become volatile. Friday's fire was the second fire and explosion after a much smaller one erupted Monday. The plant's record with state and federal regulators isn't stellar either, something the plant's president acknowledged in a phone conference Friday. "We're not perfect," said Arkema CEO Richard Rennard. "We're doing our very best and and will continue to work to get better." While the company has refused to give the full breakdown of chemicals stored on location, it has warned that it has around 500,000 pounds of peroxides on the site, all of which are expected to burn. The company also published a list of the toxic chemicals stored at the doomed facility on its web site, reposted below. 2-ETHYLHEXANOYL CHLORIDE DISTILLED ACETIC ACID 84% ACETONE AROMATIC 100 BENZOYL CHLORIDE CAUSTIC POTASH 45% CAUSTIC SODA 50% CUMENE HYDROPEROXIDE CUMENE HYDROPEROXIDE DIMETHYL HEXADIENE DIMETHYL HEXANEDIOL DH-S EPSOM SALTS HEXANE HYDROGEN PEROXIDE 70% ISOAMYLENE ISOAMYLENE ISOBUTYLENE ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL MINERAL OIL, WHITE MINERAL SPIRITS ODORLESS MONOSODIUM PHOSPHATE NEODECANOYL CHLORIDE >=98.0% UNDISTILLED PIVALOYL CHLORIDE 95-100% PROPYLENE GLYCOL SODIUM BICARBONATE SODIUM CARBONATE ANHYDROUS LIGHT SODIUM SULFATE ANHYDROUS SODIUM SULFITE ANHYDROUS SULFUR DIOXIDE SULFURIC ACID 93% REAGENT ACS T-BUTYL HYDROPEROXIDE 70% All of these substances are now expected to burn down, many in volatile, explosive fashion, in the coming days.
One day after two explosions rocked its flooded plant in Crosby, Texas, French chemicals giant Arkema said it was on "high alert" as more fires could start at the doomed facility at any moment, according to VP of US manufacturing Daryl Roberts who spoke to reporters on Friday morning. In a separate statement, that company said that "we continue to monitor the temperature in the remaining trailers and there is evidence suggesting that other trailers will soon burn, but there have been no reports of any fires or smoke." Residents in the vicinity of the Crosby plant, and not only, have grown especially worried about the chemicals contained in the plant, which until recently was only known for holding various forms of organic peroxides. While Arkema executive Richard Rennard said in a press conference Thursday morning that the plant was emitting "noxious" smoke, he would not respond to a question as to whether the smoke from the burning substances was toxic. Incidentally, the following clip shows what happens to the substance if not cooled properly. @CoolHandLukeX1 This is what organic peroxide can do if not properly cooled #Crosby #Arkema plant fire & explosion pic.twitter.com/tWotkrgwsG — Woman Voter (@WomanVote) August 31, 2017 Responding to the rising environmental damage concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement on Thursday night they concluded the best course of action was to allow the trailers containing organic peroxide to burn out instead of putting emergency responders in harm's way. It also claimed that its aerial surveillance aircraft did not detect toxic concentrations of chemicals at the site. "Following this fire, EPA sent aerial surveillance aircraft to test resulting smoke and did ground-level air quality monitoring," read a statement. "EPA’s plane instrumentation is capable of measuring 78 different chemicals, including peroxides. Neither testing methods found toxic concentration levels in areas away from the evacuated facility." The EPA's blanket dismissal of concerns, however, did little to comfort the local population which has been ordered to evacuate a 1.5 mile perimeter around the plant. The questioning continued on Friday, when Roberts refused to disclose the exact volumes and location of the chemicals contained in the plant, citing security and terrorism as reasons why. Instead, aggravating concerns, Arkema said it expects all 500,000 pounds of peroxides on the site to burn. In terms of timing, Arkema Americas CEO Rich Rose said containers filled with chemicals would likely ignite "in a few days" and was unsure how long the situation could last, adding that 1 out of 9 containers with chemicals have already caught fire at Crosby. Finally, while refusing to provide more details, the company did publish a list of the toxic chemicals stored at the doomed facility on its web site, reposted below. 2-ETHYLHEXANOYL CHLORIDE DISTILLED ACETIC ACID 84% ACETONE AROMATIC 100 BENZOYL CHLORIDE CAUSTIC POTASH 45% CAUSTIC SODA 50% CUMENE HYDROPEROXIDE CUMENE HYDROPEROXIDE DIMETHYL HEXADIENE DIMETHYL HEXANEDIOL DH-S EPSOM SALTS HEXANE HYDROGEN PEROXIDE 70% ISOAMYLENE ISOAMYLENE ISOBUTYLENE ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL MINERAL OIL, WHITE MINERAL SPIRITS ODORLESS MONOSODIUM PHOSPHATE NEODECANOYL CHLORIDE >=98.0% UNDISTILLED PIVALOYL CHLORIDE 95-100% PROPYLENE GLYCOL SODIUM BICARBONATE SODIUM CARBONATE ANHYDROUS LIGHT SODIUM SULFATE ANHYDROUS SODIUM SULFITE ANHYDROUS SULFUR DIOXIDE SULFURIC ACID 93% REAGENT ACS T-BUTYL HYDROPEROXIDE 70% All of these substances are now expected to burn down, many in volatile, explosive fashion, in the coming days.
When the CEO of Arkema America, Richard Rowe, warned late Wednesday that the company is powerless to prevent an imminent explosion at its Crosby, TX chemical plant, all we could do was wait for the inevitable. We didn't have long to wait, because just a few hours later, on Thursday morning, Arkema said it has been notified about two explosions at the doomed Crosby plant. Source: Bloomberg At approximately 2:00am local time, the company announced that two explosions and black smoke were reported. According to ABC, several people were taken to hospital. A sheriff’s deputy was among those taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes, according to a tweet from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Nine other deputies drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution. One deputy taken to hospital after inhaling fumes from Archem plant in Crosby. 9 others drove themselves to hospital as precaution. — HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) August 31, 2017 Arkema had already evacuated workers, and local authorities had cleared the area prior to the blow. From the statement: At approximately 2 a.m. CDT, we were notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas. Local officials had previously established an evacuation zone in an area 1.5 miles from our plant, based on their assessment of the situation. An Arkema spokesperson stated late Wednesday that a fire at the site was inevitable. “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature... as the temperature rises, the natural state of these materials will decompose. A white smoke will result, and that will catch fire. So the fire is imminent. The question is when,” spokesperson Janet Smith said. The Arkema Inc. chemical plant on Aug. 30 Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the county fire marshal’s office, said it is unclear whether all residents obeyed the evacuation order for the 1.5 mile radius of the plant, adding that the office has received an unconfirmed report of a woman who may still be in the evacuation zone. The company also said it is working closely with federal, state and local authorities to manage the situation, according to a statement on its website. As Arkema stores organic peroxides at several locations on the site, the threat of additional explosions remains, it said, adding that the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out. We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire. Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out. We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so. Organic peroxides are a family of compounds that are used in a wide range of applications, such as making pharmaceuticals and construction materials. Meanwhile, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez stressed during a press conference that "it wasn't an explosion, I want to be very clear, it was not an explosion..." He instead explained the incident as a series of "pops." "There were different organic peroxides of different grades that were released and it created a pop in the containers where they were being stored and some gray smoke initially emanated from it and eventually turned into black smoke" after a fire began, he said. Gonzalez went on to state that it is "not anything toxic, it is not anything that we feel is a danger to the community at all..." The "pops" occurred inside one of nine 18-wheel box trucks at the site, according to Bob Royall, an assistant chief with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office. "There are nine vans. Of the nine, three had lost refrigeration to keep them cool. the other ones are still under refrigeration," he said, adding that the chemicals are "in containers in cardboard boxes inside the vans." Royall added that the incident has played out in the way that authorities anticipated. "Right now everything is going according to what we thought was going to happen so far. We are in a defensive posture, the fire department is out there on the scene, there is air monitoring being deployed by a contractor by the company to try to find out and watch and see where the smoke might go..." he said. * * * As a reminder, on Wednesday the company said it has “no way to prevent” a potentially large explosion and fire at its facility near Houston, after flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey. The Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, some 25 miles northeast of Houston, was evacuated late Tuesday. Working with authorities, the company also urged everyone within a mile and a half of the plant to evacuate, and shut down a stretch of Highway 90 that runs alongside the plant, which produces organic peroxides for things like acrylic-based paint. “We have an unprecedented 6 feet of water throughout the plant,” Arkema’s North American operations Chief Executive Rich Rowe said in a teleconference Wednesday with reporters. Rowe said that the plant lost primary power and two emergency backup power sources, which led to a shutdown of “critical refrigeration needed for our materials.” He said that means those materials “could now explode and cause a subsequent and intense fire,” and added that “the high water that exists on site, and the lack of power, leave us with no way to prevent it.” Rowe said about 300 people in all have been evacuated, but said it wasn’t a mandatory evacuation, so he’s not certain whether the 1.5-mile radius around the facility is currently devoid of people. He said it is mostly a rural area, so there are “a limited number of homes” within the area. Rowe said local officials told him the water level in the area could actually continue to rise over the course of the next three to six days, and as such Arkema, which is based in France, believes the chemicals will start to degrade well before that happens. “And once the chemicals begin to degrade we would be in a situation where we could be looking at a fire and/or an explosion,” he said. As soon as the chemicals begin to degrade they start to “self-accelerate” in a type of no-turning-back mode, he added. Rowe didn’t get specific about the amount of chemicals on site or just how big the blast might be, except to say that the analysis of the quantity of chemical is what led authorities to decide on the 1.5-mile evacuation zone they deemed appropriate.
Update: here is the statement posted late on Wednesday afternoon on Arkema's US website on the current status of the Crosby, TX plant: Comments from Rich Rowe, President & CEO, Arkema Inc. on our Site in Crosby, Texas The nation is dealing with a natural disaster of enormous magnitude in Texas. As part of that, Arkema is dealing with a critical issue at our Crosby, Texas facility. Please let me begin by thanking our brave and dedicated employees who safely shut down the site before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Like everyone else in the region, these folks were dealing with personal and family issues caused by the storm, yet they performed their tasks in the most professional manner. Next, we apologize to everyone impacted by our situation, particularly in combination with the horrible conditions visited upon the region by the hurricane. We are working closely with many governmental authorities and first responders, and we want to thank them for their guidance, professionalism and dedication. People are working around the clock under extremely challenging conditions, and the work thus far has been tremendous. We cherish the strong relationships and support we have received from our neighbors, the United States Department of Homeland Security, Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency, Harris County Fire Marshall’s Office, Harris County Texas Sheriff’s Office, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and our elected representatives. Our Crosby facility makes organic peroxides, a family of compounds that are used in everything from making pharmaceuticals to construction materials. But organic peroxides may burn if not stored and handled under the right conditions. At Crosby, we prepared for what we recognized could be a worst case scenario. We had redundant contingency plans in place. Right now, we have an unprecedented 6 feet of water at the plant. We have lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire. The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it. We have evacuated our personnel for their own safety. The federal, state and local authorities were contacted a few days ago, and we are working very closely with them to manage this matter. They have ordered the surrounding community to be evacuated, too. We are setting up a call center to handle questions from neighbors and others affected, and a claims center to handle financial claims related to Arkema’s Crosby situation. Also, we’ve reached out to local crisis leaders in Harris County and offered our support. Once more, we apologize for impacting their lives. We thank the governmental authorities who are working closely with us for their guidance and professionalism, and will continue to work with them until this situation is resolved. Thank you. * * * Earlier Yesterday we reported, that in a potentially disastrous outcome from the Harvey flooding, a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas belonging to French industrial giant Arkema SA, has announced it is evacuating workers due to the risk of an explosion, after primary power was knocked out and flooding swamped its backup generators. The French company said the situation at the plant “has become serious” and said that it is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Texas to set up a command post in a suitable location near our site. The plant, which produces explosive organic peroxides and ammonia, was hit by more than 40 inches of rain and has been heavily flooded, running without electricity since Sunday. The plant was closed since Friday but has had a skeleton staff of about a dozen in place. Following the flood surge, the plant's back-up generators also failed. The threat emerged once the company could no longer maintain refrigeration for chemicals located on site, which have to be stored at low temperatures. The plant lost cooling when backup generators were flooded and then workers transferred products from the warehouses into diesel-powered refrigerated containers. On Tuesday afternoon, the company released a statement which admitted that "refrigeration on some of our back-up product storage containers has been compromised due to extremely high water, which is unprecedented in the Crosby area. We are monitoring the temperature of each refrigeration container remotely." It then warned that “while we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real." One day later, and with the torrential rains finally over, has the situation at the giant peroxide chemical plant stabilized? Unfortunately, according to Reuters, the answer is no. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Richard Rowe, the chief executive of Arkema's American operations said that "the company has no way of preventing chemicals from catching fire or exploding at its heavily flooded plant." Rowe added that the company now expects chemicals on site to catch fire or explode within the next six days. Since the plant remains flooded by about six feet of water, "the company has no way to prevent" this worst-case outcome. Anticipating the worst, the company earlier evacuated all remaining workers, while Harris County ordered the evacuation of residents in a 1.5-mile radius of the plant that makes organic chemicals. Previously, Arkema said that it was working with Homeland Security and the state of Texas to set up a command post near the site. As we reported on Tuesday, Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, wrote on Twitter that the Crosby plant "is in danger of fire/explosion. The local area is being evacuated. Stay out of area." Chemical Plant that makes ammonia in Crosby is in danger of fire/explosion. The local area is being evacuated. Stay out of area. #Harvey https://t.co/zCtnCGO5w8 — Ted Poe (@JudgeTedPoe) August 29, 2017 Previously Reuters added that other chemical plants have also shuttered production in Texas because of the hurricane, however none are in such a precarious state. These include Anglo-Swiss chemicals firm Ineos Group Holdings, which said it has been forced to shut down facilities in Texas. Chocolate Bayou Works and Battleground Manufacturing Complex, and INEOS Nitriles’ Green Lake facility are following hurricane procedures and are temporarily shut down, spokesman Charles Saunders said. Huntsman Corp said it has closed six chemical plants in Texas, along with its global headquarters and advanced technology center in Texas.
A chemical plant in Crosby, Texas belonging to French industrial giant Arkema SA, has announced it is evacuating workers on Tuesday due to the risk of an explosion, after Tropical Storm Harvey knocked out power and flooding swamped its backup generators. The French company said the situation at the plant “has become serious” and said that it is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Texas to set up a command post in a suitable location near our site. The plant, which produces explosive organic peroxides and ammonia, was hit by more than 40 inches of rain and has been heavily flooded, running without electricity since Sunday. The plant was closed since Friday but has had a skeleton staff of about a dozen in place. Following the flood surge, the plant's back-up generators also failed. According to the plant's website description, it "produces methyl mercaptan, ethyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and methylmercapto-proprionaldehyde (MMP)." Our products are key ingredients in the manufacture of biodegradable herbicides, pesticides and animal feed supplements. These products are also used in the production of pharmaceuticals, photographic chemicals and circuit boards. Ethyl mercaptan is primarily used as an odorizer for propane gas. The strong odor that ethyl mercaptan adds to propane makes gas leaks easier to detect, protecting homes and businesses. MMP is used in the production of methionine, an essential amino acid and a key component of poultry, swine and ruminant (cattle, sheep, etc.) feed. The threat emerged once the company could no longer maintain refrigeration for chemicals located on site, which have to be stored at low temperatures. The plant lost refrigeration when backup generators were flooded and then workers transferred products from the warehouses into diesel-powered refrigerated containers. In a statement released at 3:30pm, Arkema said "refrigeration on some of our back-up product storage containers has been compromised due to extremely high water, which is unprecedented in the Crosby area. We are monitoring the temperature of each refrigeration container remotely." It then warned that “while we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real." Earlier in the day, Arkema said that the company "is limited in what it can do to address the site conditions until the storm abates. Arkema does not believe that the situation presents a risk to the community or the ride-out crew, due to the distance between the refrigerated cars and any people. We are working without pause to keep our materials safe. We have no higher priority than the safety of our employees, neighbors and the environment." Just 6 hours later it admitted that the situations presents a risk after all. Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, wrote on Twitter that the Crosby plant “is in danger of fire/explosion. The local area is being evacuated. Stay out of area.” Chemical Plant that makes ammonia in Crosby is in danger of fire/explosion. The local area is being evacuated. Stay out of area. #Harvey https://t.co/zCtnCGO5w8 — Ted Poe (@JudgeTedPoe) August 29, 2017 Meanwhile, Reuters adds that other chemical plants have also shuttered production in Texas because of the hurricane. These include Anglo-Swiss chemicals firm Ineos Group Holdings, which said it has been forced to shut down facilities in Texas. Chocolate Bayou Works and Battleground Manufacturing Complex, and INEOS Nitriles’ Green Lake facility are following hurricane procedures and are temporarily shut down, spokesman Charles Saunders said. Huntsman Corp said it has closed six chemical plants in Texas, along with its global headquarters and advanced technology center in Texas.
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