While individuals have not been able to identify the cause for the Geismar plant explosion that occurred last year, officials say that they are not surprised that the accident occurred. Investigators believe that the propylene manufactured at the plant caught fire. Officials note that the propylene leaked from a corroded pipe six months ago at the plant.
Government agencies are fining the plant for negligence and other violations. The plant recently broke ground on a new expansion project, and officials also want to know if this contributed to the devastating explosion that caused over 100 injuries and at least two deaths last week. The Louisiana State Police say that the fire was fed by propylene but are not sure how the source was ignited in the first place. Construction was going on at the expansion project near the propylene manufacturing unit.
The plant owners and authorities have not commented on the potential connection between a leaky propylene pipe reported in December and the recent explosion. At the time that the leaky pipe was discovered, it shut down the work in the immediate area. An emergency response team came to the plant to take care of the problem.
At the time, an alarm went off and all work stopped until the facility emergency brigade announced that they had contained propylene vapors from causing dangerous exposure. About 514 pounds of gas escaped during the leak, but this is not enough to be a violation of the plant's air pollution permit. According to the permit, the plant has permission to emit 197.84 tons of volatile organic carbon materials per year.
Now, investigators say that the piping corrosion that caused this previous incident may have contributed to the recent explosion. Also, researchers discovered that in 2010 there was a leak of 100 pounds of ethylene from the plant, and there was also a leak of highly reactive volatile organic compounds. IN 2009, reports show that the plant leaked 93 pounds of benzene, and over 4,000 of propylene. The company also maximized its fugitive emissions standard that year, and was reprimanded as a result. A Department of Environmental Quality filing says that the Williams Olefins plant was filed in 2010 but the plant officials have been working with the DEQ since that time in a variety of settlements over violations.
Even if the plant is capable of remaining inside of the allotted emission scale, hazardous material leaks or leaking flammable gases like propylene puts workers at risk. As this recent event evidences, these gases can easily cause devastating explosions which can lead to serious injury. When the propylene reacts with a source of combustion, the natural reaction is a shocking explosion. Static shock sparks or a flame from a match lit near a leak site, or dangerous high temperatures in pipes that contain propylene could all be possible ignition sources. Also, if oxygen somehow leaked into the propylene pipes, this could cause an explosive reaction.
Reports show that the Williams Olefins plant has 12 straight quarters of noncompliance with the federal Clean Air Act and has not been expected by the OSHA in over 10 years. Chances are that the plant will be heavily penalized for their negligence and their failure to keep employee safety first in their dealings with petrochemicals. If you want more information about petrochemical plant explosions or if you are a worker who was injured in this Louisiana plant explosion, you need to seek compensation from the parties responsible. Hire an
industrial injury attorney at Arnold & Itkin today if you are suffering from a
plant explosion and want to seek damages to cover your medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damage.