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Safety

TPC faces consequences for Texas explosion

The company will need years to rebuild and is being sued by the state

by Alexander H. Tullo
February 27, 2020

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Credit: Erwin Seba/Reuters/Newscom
The butadiene plant may take as many as 5 years to rebuild, TPC says.

TPC Group says it will take years to rebuild its Port Neches, Texas, plant after the explosions and fire that shook the facility last year. Adding to the company’s woes, it now faces a lawsuit from the state of Texas over chronic emission releases from the plant, including those that occurred during the Nov. 27 incident.

The process of rebuilding the plant, which refines butadiene, will take 3–5 years, TPC says. The company expects to restore terminal operations at the facility during the first half of 2020. But because a terminal requires fewer workers, it is laying off an undisclosed number of employees.

The cause of the blast and fire, which injured three workers and forced 50,000 local residents to shelter in place, is still unknown. The US Chemical Safety Board is investigating.

Meanwhile, the Texas attorney general is suing TPC on behalf of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The government’s complaint says that in 2018 and 2019, the Port Neches plant was the source of eight “unauthorized emissions events,” in addition to the November 2019 explosion. For example, on Jan. 22, 2018, nearly 50 kg of butadiene were released due to overpressurization of the plant at start-up that caused flaring.

“TPC Group’s poor operational, maintenance, and design practices continue to cause emissions events and unauthorized emissions,” the suit says. TCEQ is seeking a full environmental audit of the plant.

TPC, which is owned by the private equity firms SK Capital and First Reserve, claims a 35% share of the North American butadiene market. The capacity of the plant was rated at 220,000 metric tons per year in 2012, the last year data was available.

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