Unplanned Shutdown: Eastman Restarts TN Plant

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 @ 12:06 PM gHale

Operations at Eastman Chemical Company’s Kingsport, TN, site started back up after an unplanned shutdown June 4.

Eastman Chemical Co. continued its “safe and orderly restart” of operations after the June 4 unplanned failure at its power generation facility and subsequent plant shutdown.

“The power outage was a result of equipment failure in our power distribution system,” the company said. “We have isolated the source and utilities are currently coming back online. All safety and environmental systems are stable with no reported injuries, incidents or issues.”

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The restart process was in full swing last Wednesday, with sounds of sirens and horns coming from the plant site.

“Our neighbors may have heard alarms or sirens in the late afternoon or early evening from within the plant, but those are related to reestablishing operations and not an emergency the community should be concerned about,” Eastman spokesman Brad Lifford said.

The power outage caused a methanol release into the air and a wastewater discharge into the Holston River, according to Eastman.

The company said the emissions releases would cause no harm to the environment or pose any threat to human health. There were no injuries reported at the plant.

Due to a loss of power to the pumps that transfer wastewater to the company’s wastewater treatment facility, there was a discharge of 295,000 gallons of dilute wastewater into the South Fork of the Holston River, Eastman said.

“The discharge was 99 percent water and only a fraction of the River’s 1.6 billion gallon daily flow,” Eastman said. “Consequently, any additional material in the diluted mixture will naturally dissipate and be broken down by natural processes within the river. All downstream water municipalities and industrial users were immediately notified, and the diluted wastewater is not expected to pose any threat to human health or the environment.”

Eastman said it immediately notified the appropriate authorities of the methanol release.

“The actual amount of methanol released was significantly lower than originally reported,” the company said. “Methanol is a wood alcohol and is found in products people use every day such as arts and crafts, personal care and cleaning agents. The material naturally dissipates in the environment and this release is also not expected to pose any threat to human health or the environment.

“In the event that a release ever poses any risk or perceived threat, the company would immediately initiate its emergency notification process to ensure the safety of the community. Eastman proactively reported both releases on June 4th to federal, state and local authorities and municipalities. Eastman did not notify the public of these releases as neither posed a threat to human health or the environment.”

After the methanol release, an unspecified number of workers went to “temporary safe havens” as a precaution, Eastman said.

As for the wastewater discharge, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) sent staff members to two separate locations downstream of the discharge to assess any impact the wastewater may have made on the river system.

“The (waste) water treatment plant is now back to full operation….After careful inspection of the river system, TDEC staff determined there are no signs of any distressed or dead aquatic wildlife at this time,” TDEC official Eric Ward said. “TDEC will continue to be in communication with Eastman and will continue to assess the situation.”

Eastman uses Appalachian Power (AP), a unit of American Electric Power, as an auxiliary power supplier.

“For a number of years, Eastman has had a backup service provision in its contract with Appalachian Power,” AP spokeswoman Teresa Hall said. “When Eastman experienced difficulty yesterday, they immediately began to purchase additional power from us, which allowed them to keep many of their basic loads operating while they sorted out the situation.”

“I am very proud of the Eastman team for their quick and professional response to this unfortunate shutdown. As a result of their efforts, we experienced no serious injuries or impact to the environment,” said Mark Costa, Eastman chief executive. “We take our commitment to being a reliable supplier seriously and we greatly appreciate the support of our customers as we worked to safely restore operations.”

In terms of financial impact, the company projects the shutdown will negatively affect earnings between $0.05 and $0.10 per share, but continues to expect full-year 2014 earnings per share to be between $6.70 and $7.

Eastman’s manufacturing processes at the Kingsport location include chemicals, fibers and plastics. It is one of the largest chemical manufacturing sites in North America, with more than 500 buildings covering 900 acres.

The Eastman plant site started up in 1920.

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