Last week, a large fire broke out after an explosion at a Pasadena petrochemical refinery shut down the Houston Ship Channel and injured a worker. The Houston Press calls this plant the “petrochemical epicenter” as it refines approximately 100,000 barrels of crude oil daily into jet fuel, diesel fuel or gasoline. That said, the fire was rather large and disturbed many in the neighborhood just down the road from it. Coast Guard hazmat squads searched the scene and the surrounding area for signs of chemical release, but the area was cleared
Representatives from the company abruptly ended a press conference on the incident after only four minutes. However, they did report a hydrogen desulfurization unit used to transform oil into diesel fuel while simultaneously removing sulfur exploded. Unfortunately, the hydrotreater sits right next to a 56,000-gallon unit that produces gasoline (obviously a terrible location to place this), which explains why residents in the surrounding areas were shaken by the blast.
According to witnesses living in the area, the facility is poorly maintained, the air is tainted with chemicals and residents consistently hear hazard alarms going off. The company has an ongoing record of pollution and safety violations.
The Texas Petrochemical Facility Has a Long History of Safety Violations
Just this past January, one refinery worker died due to safety violations and three more sustained injuries during a fire. Just three months prior to these incidents, four workers suffered serious burns due to an explosion at the chemical plant. Just a few months prior to that incident, the sludge in a tank ignited and unleashed a giant fireball that injured two workers.
A total of 11 workers sustained serious injuries and the facility had seven reported emission events in 2015, while the plants in the surrounding area averaged one injury last year. In December of 2011, the plant underwent an explosion that resulted in $1.1 million in fines from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Technically speaking, the plant was supposed to be shut down in 2014 due to an operating permit lapse. However, it continues to operate illegally.
The Texas Petrochemical Facility Needs to Be Shut Down
While the facility is bringing jobs to the area (illegally, given its operating permit lapsed), the risk in this case outweighs the benefits. Given the extent of the numerous safety violations that place both the workers and local residents at risk, it is a wonder why this Texas chemical plant is even running. This facility has quite literally no business operating.