HOUSTON – Three workers were injured in an early morning explosion on Wednesday that sparked a blaze at a Texas petrochemical plant, the latest in a series of chemical plant accidents in the region.

Three injured in Texas petrochemical plant blast- oil and gas 360

Source: Reuters

An initial explosion at a TPC Group plant in Port Neches, Texas, was followed by secondary blasts, shattering windows and blowing locked doors off their hinges in homes near the facility, about 90 miles east of Houston.

Residents within a half-mile radius were evacuated.

The fiery blast follows others at petrochemical plants in east Texas. In April, a fire at a KMCO LLC plant northeast of Houston killed one worker and injured a second. A fire in July at an Exxon Mobil Corp chemical plant in Baytown, Texas, injured 37.

People more than 30 miles away from the facility, which supplies petrochemicals for synthetic rubber and resins and makes a gasoline additive, were shaken awake by the 1 a.m. CT (0700 GMT) explosion, sources familiar with the fire-fighting and rescue operations said.

Some homes close to the plant sustained heavy damage and local police were going door-to-door to check if residents were injured, said the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

One of the three wounded workers was flown by helicopter to a Houston hospital’s burns unit, the sources said.

Peyton Keith, a TPC spokesman, said firefighting efforts were continuing at about 10 a.m. CT. He at least two of the workers taken to hospital were treated and released.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates air and water emissions, and the Environmental Protection Agency were called to the site. There was no immediate information on emissions from the blaze, a spokesman said. No impacts to water were reported.

The plant employs 175 people and routinely has 50 contract workers on site. The company said the explosion occurred in a processing unit.

“We cannot speak to the cause of the incident or the extent of damage, but TPC is assembling a team to conduct a full and thorough investigation,” the company said.
TPC processes petrochemicals for use in the manufacture of synthetic rubber, nylon, resins, plastics and MBTE, a gasoline additive. The company supplies more than a third of the feedstock butadiene in North America, according to its website.

“Right now, our focus is on protecting the safety of responders and the public, and minimizing any impact to the environment,” TPC Group added.

The Port Neches plant can produce more than 900 million pounds (408,233 metric tons) of chemicals, according to the company’s website.

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