Safety Systems Fire Up in Texas City

Monday, September 26, 2011 @ 02:09 PM gHale


Safety systems kicked into gear at the Valero, Marathon and BP refineries in Texas City, TX, as they activated their flare systems after a power outage and fire at a power substation disrupted electricity late last week.

There was a power disruption at all of the city’s petrochemical facilities, Texas City Homeland Security Coordinator Bruce Clawson said. The extra flaring was visible across the area after the 6:50 p.m. disruption occurred.

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Texas City fire crews conducted street-by-street air monitoring in the city, but found no dangerous readings, Clawson said. Officials also warned the fire department in La Marque to check air quality as a plume of dark smoke drifted toward that city.

Clawson said that there were no reports of injuries. The incident never reached higher than a level 2a, Clawson said.

Valero spokesman Fred Newhouse said power went out to the majority of the company’s Texas City refinery on Loop 197 as well as its steam boilers. The lack of boilers means the company was unable to send steam to the flares, so heavy black smoke released as part of the flaring.

Valero officials were not able to confirm if any units or equipment suffered damage from the sudden outage.

Air monitoring in the area did not turn up anything significant, Newhouse said. He expected the flaring at the refinery to continue as refinery workers tried to get units restarted.

Marathon officials had not responded to calls.

BP Texas City spokesman Michael Marr said the company’s refinery experienced a minimal power blip when the substation caught fire, but there was no major impact on operations, at the refinery.

Dow Chemical spokeswoman Beth Dombrowa said the plant experienced a blip like the other facilities but there was no impact from the outage.

The fire happened at the Texas-New Mexico Power Co.’s Cherokee substation, which is between the BP and Marathon refineries.

Power company crews shut power off to the substation. The refineries were working on backup power. Cause of the fire was under investigation.

This outage was the fourth significant power hit in the city’s industrial sector. Most of those have been because of problems with Texas-New Mexico Power Co. substations.

In April, buildup of sand on insulators due to the lack of rain was the cause of the power outages that knocked out power to all of the city’s industrial complexes.

A spokesman for PNM Resources, the parent company of Texas-New Mexico, said a transformer tripped causing the power outage. Oil from that transformer also spilled and they would have to clean it up before the substation would come back online.



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