CROSBY, Texas—More fires may be on the horizon at the Arkema Inc. facility affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The Crosby site, which already experienced one fire, has eight other at-risk refrigerated trailers of organic peroxides combining for about 500,000 pounds of material. Daryl Roberts, the firm's vice president of manufacturing, technology and regulatory services in the Americas, said during a Sept. 1 conference call that despite the receding water, it is not plausible to re-start the refrigeration units, which means the other eight remain at a high risk of catching fire.
"Most of the permanent infrastructure for electricity has been underwater for the past eight to 10 days," he said. "We are expecting that the equipment will not be able to be functional. If we talk about the material that's on the trailers, we're assuming at least water in some of the diesel systems connected to those trailers, so we don't expect that we would have the ability to easily restart them. On top of that, our ability to access the areas close to those trailers is limited from a safety standpoint."
Roberts said the scenario available to Arkema is to let that material burn out.
The firm expects a similar fire to that of the first trailer, one that is contained on the site and ultimately burns itself out. Residents living within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant have been evacuated and law enforcement officers established a perimeter around the area for monitoring.
"We don't expect a massive overpressure scenario," Roberts said. "These trailers can't hold pressure, so we don't have a situation where we're going to be holding material, building up pressure and therefore allowing for what we would call a major explosion that has an impact well off the site."
Arkema Inc. CEO Rich Rowe again apologized to everyone affected by the situation and praised company employees, the sheriff's office, local firefighters and federal officials for their efforts in responding to the situation in Crosby.
"My heart goes out to all the residents of Harris County, as well as in the other areas surrounding Houston, who are impacted by this disaster," Rowe said.
"We have organic peroxide stored at multiple locations throughout the plant and we expect at some point these materials will ignite in the coming days. There is a possibility that some of this activity could begin today (Sept. 1) and we're watching this activity closely along with the emergency response agencies we're working with."
Arkema's Crosby plant makes liquid organic peroxides under the brand name Luperox. These peroxides are used to produce thermoplastic elastomers, rubber and polymers.
The firm posted its Tier 2 inventory on its website. The list details the names of the chemicals currently at the Crosby site, minus the quantities and locations of the materials. Rowe said the firm needs to keep the more detailed information from those that would cause the company harm and stressed it has shared every detail of the Tier 2 inventory with the response agencies it is coordinating with.