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Industrial Safety

Explosion rocks a TPC butadiene plant in Texas

Cause of the blast, which injured three, is not known

by Alexander H. Tullo
November 27, 2019

 

20191127lnp1-explosion.jpg
Credit: Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle via AP
An explosion and fire occurred at TPC Group's Port Neches, Texas, plant.

An explosion at a TPC Group plant shook the community around Port Neches, Texas, at 1 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 27. A huge fireball breaking the nighttime stillness was captured on security cameras, and damage has been reported to nearby homes.

Two TPC workers and a contractor were injured in the blast and are being treated in area hospitals. TPC says it has accounted for all of its personnel. As of 6:40 a.m., first responders were still fighting to control the resulting blaze.

The Port Neches plant takes in crude C4 chemical streams from area refineries and extracts butadiene, a raw material for synthetic rubber and engineering polymers. As of 2012, when the company last disclosed financial information to the public, the site had a capacity to produce about 220,000 metric tons of butadiene per year. It also sells coproduct C4 streams.

TPC bought the facility from Huntsman Corp. in 2006. At one time, the site also made the fuel additive methyl tert-butyl ether.

The private equity firms SK Capital and First Reserve bought TPC in 2012. In early 2018, TPC announced it would expand crude C4 processing capacity through small improvement projects at its plants. The company claims a 35% share of the North American butadiene market,

TPC says the blast occurred in a processing unit but that it does not yet know the cause. It is promising an investigation.

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