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Csb Probes Formosa Plant

Safety board to investigate causes of explosion at South Texas plastics facility

by Glenn Hess
October 20, 2005

The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) says a team will return as early as next week to a Formosa Plastics facility in Point Comfort, Texas, to continue an inquiry into an Oct. 6 explosion and fire that injured 13 workers. Most of the injuries were minor, but two workers were admitted to the burn unit at a Galveston hospital, and one remains hospitalized there.

Formosa says the incident resulted from a leak in a pressurized propylene line that was struck by a forklift driven by a contract worker. The gas traveled along the ground until it reached an unidentified ignition source. "We intend to gather additional evidence before confirming this theory," CSB lead investigator Jim Lay says. He says portions of the olefins unit where the incident was centered show extensive damage from heat. “The site shows relatively little blast damage, consistent with a series of unconfined, open-air explosions or deflagrations," Lay says.

The remainder of the Formosa complex, which has 13 units that cover 1,800 acres, was shut down as a precaution. Based on current evidence, CSB says investigators do not plan to recommend a full root-cause investigation of the incident.


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