The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby is likely to explode. The facility lost the ability to keep the chemicals at a low temperature when the electricity went out and back-up generators were flooded.
"At the time, while we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real". The danger is posed by the lack of powered cooling equipment to prevent the heat-sensitive organic peroxides from reaching unsafe temperatures. Backup power generation failed too.
The Crosby Fire Department evacuated its last employee Tuesday night. The plant's employees initially tried to move the volatile chemicals from warehouses into refrigerated containers powered by backup generators, but as the flooding intensified, some of the generators failed and the company made a decision to evacuate all workers on Tuesday. Typically, companies can quench organic peroxides in situations like this by combining them with another chemical, eliminating the danger.
"In order to ensure the safety of our ride-out team, all personnel have been evacuated from the site at this time", company officials stated in a press release. In other words, it makes sense Arkema and local, state and federal officials didn't fool around once the situation became clear.
The company, however, says their hands are tied during the hurricane.
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It would be surprising if the company had not considered a scenario like this, the Chronicle cited Sam Mannan of Texas A&M University's Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center.
The Arkema plant, which produces chemicals used in making acrylic-based paints, is now submerged under floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey which have knocked out its primary and its two backup power generators.
"Materials could now explode and cause a subsequent and intense fire".
It could be six days until the floodwaters at the Arkema plant recede enough for people to get access to the chemical stores.