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Industrial Safety

Evacuations ordered again near Texas chemical plant

Chemical Safety Board has deployed six investigators to the site

by Jeff Johnson
December 6, 2019

20191206lnp3-explosion.jpg
Credit: Erwin Seba/REUTERS/Newscom
A process tower flies through the air after an explosion at a TPC Group petrochemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, on Nov. 27.

On Dec. 4, authorities urged 50,000 residents of Port Neches, Texas, to shelter in place and then to evacuate their homes. It was the second time in a week that the community faced such orders, which stemmed from a fire and explosions at a TPC Group chemical plant. The incident injured three workers and sent smoke and a butadiene-fueled fireball high above the community on Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving.

The TPC Group plant manufactures butadiene, a toxic and flammable compound that is used to make synthetic rubber and other products. The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has deployed six investigators to the site, but information about the cause and other details were scant as of Dec. 5, CSB representatives said at a press briefing.

The second round of shelter-in-place and evacuation orders came after sensors detected butadiene in the community, despite claims that the fire had been extinguished a day earlier. The evacuation order was voluntary and was made “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a statement by company, federal, and local officials. It was lifted midday on Dec. 5.

The TPC Group is owned by the private equity firms SK Capital and First Reserve.

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