Failed Reactor Tube Leads to Fire, Chem Release

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 @ 03:09 PM gHale

After a reactor tube failed, there was a fire and chemical release injuring a contractor at the BASF Freeport, TX, facility Thursday night.

The fire started at 9 p.m. Thursday when a mixture of cyclohexanone and cyclohexanol escaped from a vent stack at the site’s Anone 1 plant due to a failed reactor tube, BASF spokeswoman Cindy Suggs said.

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The facility’s fire brigade responded immediately, containing the fire to the unit and extinguishing the flames by 9:15 p.m., Suggs said.

“They were there within less than 60 seconds,” Suggs said. “We took immediate action.”

BASF also notified the Freeport Fire Department as a courtesy, Suggs said, although they don’t typically respond.

Of the 28 contractors working at that site, 20 went to U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group in Freeport for evaluation and released with no issues, Suggs said.

“It was more precaution than anything else,” she said.

Seven contractors went via ambulance to Brazosport Regional Health System in Lake Jackson, and six released with no issues, Suggs said. One contractor remained in the hospital Saturday morning.

Suggs said people on site at BASF are working with the contract company to monitor the contractor.

“We cannot speak to the contractor’s medical condition,” she said.

The facility’s environmental health and safety group is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the incident and the amount of chemicals released, but Suggs said BASF is confident the release was less than 500 pounds.

“We are confident it did not impact our nearby neighbors or our community,” Suggs said. “An investigation is already underway to put measures in place to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”

The environmental health and safety group and BASF’s operating team are also working to monitor the air, Suggs said, and the fire brigade monitored the site for several hours after they extinguished the flames.

“The main thing is the health and safety of our employees, our contractors, our environment and our community, and I think our quick response in containing and extinguishing the fire demonstrates that commitment,” Suggs said.