October, 2005

This is a repeating event

200506OctAll DayFormosa Plastics (Point Comfort) Explosion 2005Formosa Plastics Point Comfort (US-TX) Origin: CSB Lessons:Compliance with Standards,Operating Procedures,Risk AssessmentIndustry:Plastics & PolymersCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Impact

Summary

At about 3:05 PM on October 6, 2005, a trailer being towed by a forklift snagged and pulled a small drain valve out of a strainer in a liquid propylene system. Escaping propylene rapidly vaporized, forming a large flammable vapor cloud.

Operators immediately began to shut the plant down and attempt to isolate the leak. They tried to reach and close manual valves that could stop the release; however, the advancing vapor cloud forced them to retreat. At the same time, control room operators shut off pumps, closed control valves, and vented equipment to the flare stack to direct flammable gases away from the fire.

At about 3:07 PM, the vapor ignited, creating an explosion.2 The explosion knocked down several and burned two (one seriously) operators exiting the unit. Flames from the fire reached more than 500 feet in the air.

Because of the size of the fire, Formosa initiated a site-wide evacuation. Fourteen workers sustained minor injuries including scrapes and smoke inhalation. The extensive damage shut down Olefins II unit for 5 months.

KEY ISSUES:
• HAZARD REVIEWS
• FLAME RESISTANT CLOTHING
• USE OF CURRENT STANDARDS

ROOT CAUSES:
1. Reviews did not fully address protection of specific process equipment from vehicle impact or the use of remotely actuated valves to control a catastrophic release.
2. Formosa did not require FRC for operators working within the unit, even though the large flammable liquid and gas inventory may put operators at risk of injury from flash fires.
3. The design was not updated to incorporate improved recommended practices with respect to fireproofing structural steel that supports critical safety systems


Image credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

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