CROSBY, TX – Explosions and smoke have been reported at Arkema Inc.’s Crosby, Texas, plant. The company said in a statement it was notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center of two explosions at the plant at approximately 2 a.m. CDT. Local officials had established an evacuation zone within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant after the possibility of an explosion was determined earlier in the week.
Arkema had closed the plant on Friday in anticipation of the hurricane. The facility produces liquid organic peroxides that are used primarily in the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC and polyester reinforced fiberglass, and acrylic resins. These materials naturally degrade and some can become unstable unless refrigerated. If unrefrigerated, they can break down and rapidly catch fire. Arkema had redundant contingency plans in place at the plant to ensure that products needing refrigeration could be kept cool. However, the unprecedented flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey overwhelmed the company’s primary power and two sources of emergency backup power, and the company lost critical refrigeration of these products. At that time, Arkema evacuated the remaining personnel at the plant. The company was in close contact with emergency authorities in the area throughout, and they decided to order an evacuation of the surrounding community.
In a statement issued after the explosion the company said, “As we communicated in recent days, our site followed its hurricane preparation plan in advance of the recent hurricane and we had redundant contingency plans in place. However, unprecedented flooding overwhelmed our primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we lost critical refrigeration of the products on site. Some of our organic peroxides products burn if not stored at low temperature.
“We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire. Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.
“We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office reported on Twitter that one deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the plant and nine other drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution. The office issued an update on Twitter saying that, according to information provided by Arkema, the smoke inhaled by the 10 deputies is believed to be a nontoxic irritant.