Arkema Completes Controlled Burn at Crosby

06.09.2017 -

As the immediate effects of Hurricane Harvey began to wear off, the US subsidiary of French specialty chemicals producer Arkema said it had been able to set fire to the remaining remaining six organic peroxide containers at its stricken Crosby, Texas plant, and the  chemicals "have now largely burned themselves out."

Local emergency officials have lifted the evacuation zone within a 1.5-mile radius of the facility, imposed as the threat of explosion loomed. Several blasts, believed to be minor, subsequently rocked the plant on Aug. 31.

Before the explosions took place, Arkema had said the facility was under two meters of water and it had lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site, so that they could explode and cause an intense fire.

The full extent of the danger to and emanating from the Arkema site Texas facility had not yet been determined early in the week. On Sept. 5 it was still off-limits, even to company personnel.  although the removal of the evacuation order suggested officials were satisfied here was no longer an imminent danger to the local population.

Arkema’s US and local management told a local press conference the company had been able to neutralize the remaining trailer tanks containing the peroxides and was continuing to maintain air quality testing within the evacuation radius. Executives told said they did not expect severe contamination.

The French company said it is cooperating closely with the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) as it investigates the accident and “welcomes” its review, which also could be useful for other companies. 

Meanwhile, US press reports said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently fined Arkema $91,000 for 10 separate violations at the Crosby plant, most of them involving process safety management of hazardous chemicals.

Along with Exxon Mobil Baytown, Texas, facility, Arkema’s Crosby facility was ranked among the Houston-area sites with the highest potential for harm in an incident, according to a 2016 analysis by the O'Connor Process Safety Center and the newspaper Houston Chronicle. The newspaper said the analysis “factored risks based on the amount and type of dangerous chemicals on site and their proximity to the public.”