Fire, Explosion At Flooded Chemical Plant in Houston Inevitable – CEO

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
By Paul Martin

Arkema Americas’ Crosby, Texas chemical production facility is on a trajectory where it is no longer possible to prevent contents and materials at the plant from igniting or exploding, CEO Richard Rowe told reporters.

The event is expected to occur within six days, Rowe said. There are no means to prevent the incident due to the level of flooding that has already submerged much of the plant as a result of Hurricane Harvey, the executive said.

Organic peroxides are made at Arkema’s Crosby plant, the company’s website says. “All organic peroxides will burn vigorously, and once ignited will be difficult to extinguish,” according to a University of Nebraska safety manual on organic peroxides.

​”Some organic peroxides will decompose very rapidly or explosively when exposed to heat, friction, mechanical shock, or contamination with incompatible materials… Extinguishing organic peroxide-fed fires is extremely difficult since the chemical provides the necessary oxygen to support combustion.”

“The primary challenge has been maintaining refrigeration for these products,” which must be stored at low temperatures, the company said in a August 29 news release. Refrigeration units were cut off from electrical supply from Harvey’s floods and the backup power generators were also kicked off the grid by water levels reaching approximately six feet (1.83 m) in height.

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