Biorefinery Restart Up in Flames

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 @ 04:09 PM gHale

An investigation is still underway into what caused a fire last week that injured four persons at the Renewable Energy Group biorefinery plant in Geismar, Louisiana.

Four workers went to the Baton Rouge General Regional Burn Center for treatment. It was the second fire in months at the plant and this time, officials said the fire was the result of hydrogen releasing.

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“Right now we are still putting together exactly what happened,” said Kim Johnson with the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Renewable Energy officials at the company headquarters in Ames, Iowa, said the fire was out by 4:20 a.m. after it broke out around 11 p.m. at the biorefinery.

One of the injured workers was said to be badly burned and in critical condition over the weekend.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was on the scene over the weekend, looking into the incident.

Production at the plant had restarted last October after a two-year hiatus. The former joint partners of the complex had idled the facility on standby in the fall of 2012 and never restarted production, opting to sell to REG in mid-2014. The company was reportedly trying to repair the $11 million plant from damage that resulted in the April fire.

“They were in the process of restarting,” said Rick Webre, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies indicated the fire sparked from a hydrogen line undergoing maintenance.

Renewable Energy is one of the leading North American advanced biofuels producer and developer of renewable chemicals. It has 11 active biorefineries around the country. The same plant in Geismar also had a fire in April and two workers suffered injuries and went to the hospital.

At that time, two vessels at the operation ruptured and caused the fire. The plant can produce up to 75 million gallons a year of synthetic fuel. Its previous name was Dynamic Fuels LLC, a joint venture of Syntroleum Corp. and Tyson Foods of Springdale, Arkansas. The $160 million biodiesel plant opened in 2010.