PORT NECHES, Texas—It will take "a phased approach over many months and years" for TPC Group to remove hazardous materials from its Port Neches butadiene extraction facility and restore its operations in the wake of a disastrous conflagration that occurred in November.
Two explosions rocked the TPC plant Nov. 27 and resulted in two butadiene-fueled fires. In all, five towers and 12 tanks were damaged at the site, according to a spokeswoman.
"Response efforts at TPC Group Port Neches Operations remain focused on safely bringing the event to an end," a TPC spokeswoman said, noting that the company is securing equipment and minimizing impact on the environment and community.
The facility, which has an annual butadiene extraction capacity of 426,000 metric tons, was closed indefinitely, and some 60,000 Port Neches residents were evacuated for three days after the blasts.
The plant's 175 employees were paid to the end of the year before being placed on indefinite layoff.
TPC is continuing the removal of inventory at Port Neches, which required the restart of some equipment at the site, she said.
"Based on successful mechanical integrity inspections of tanks and equipment, the company initiated the flow of materials from tanks for barge loading," she said.
TPC has made significant progress in transferring high-purity 1,3-butadiene, the spokeswoman said. Lower-purity butadiene will be removed next, followed by process materials.
On Dec. 2, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began investigations at the Port Neches site, according to the spokeswoman.
Also, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is collaborating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a third-party resource dedicated to reviewing the response plan, she said.
"TPC Group has also begun its own Root Cause Analysis to systematically process the root cause of the event, and corrective actions that will be taken," the spokeswoman said.
TPC and its employees are cooperating fully with the investigation, but it is still too early to determine the cause of the explosions, she said.
To date, there have been at least five lawsuits filed against TPC by Port Neches resident, but the company spokeswoman said that TPC cannot comment on pending litigation.