MS Biodiesel Plant Destroyed

Thursday, January 23, 2014 @ 06:01 PM gHale

Investigators are trying to determine just what went wrong after explosions and an intense blaze at a biodiesel complex in northern Mississippi reduced the plant to a smoldering pile of rubble Wednesday. The good news is two workers at the plant escaped unharmed, the plant’s manager said.

The first blast hit the JNS Biodiesel LCC plant, three to four miles north of New Albany, MS, at 5:30 a.m. CST, officials said.

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The heat from the subsequent blaze was so high firefighters could not get close enough to battle it, and state and federal environmental officials decided to let the fire burn itself out, said Plant Manager Carl Harlin. Just as that scenario was settling down, another blast occurred in the afternoon when a storage tank blew, Harlin said.

“Right now everything is a pile of rubble, and it’s just burning. When we first thought the fire was dying down, we still had our office. … After the second (explosion) everything burned,” Harlin said.

Two workers at the plant managed to escape the facility without injuries, according to a statement from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Harlin said all workers at the facility ended accounted for.

The plant uses poultry fat as feedstock to produce about 8 million gallons of biofuels a year, making it the smallest of three such plants in the state. The previous owners were North Mississippi Biodiesel Inc.

State Highway Patrol Trooper Ronny Hall told a local television station the fire may burn as long as two days. Harlin agreed with that assessment.

The explosion knocked out power to the nearby town of Blue Mountain and some areas in neighboring Tippah County, the state Emergency Management Agency said. Electricity ended up restored by noon.

“One home and two industrial businesses near the plant have been evacuated as a precaution,” the agency said. “The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has air monitoring teams in the area to test for hazardous materials …but have not detected anything at this time.”

Harlin said they would rebuild the plant.

“It’s definitely a shock for us but we’ve already talked. We’ve already hired a crew to clean everything up and we’re going to start over and build another one. We have too much invested in this.”

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