Skip to comments.Blast hits BP Texas City refinery (Oh oh... here it comes!)
Posted on 03/23/2005 4:40:03 PM PST by SierraWasp
Blast hits BP Texas City refinery
Gasoline futures jump to record high on supply fears
By Jim Jelter, MarketWatch Last Update: 7:20 PM ET March 23, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- A huge blast ripped through part of BP's sprawling petroleum refinery in Texas City, Texas, Wednesday, killing and injuring several workers, the company said.
News of the explosion shot through the energy market, triggering a swift after-hours jump in gasoline futures to a record high $1.61 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange on fears the giant refinery's gasoline production might be severely cut. See Futures Movers.
The move on NYMEX puts even more upward pressure on prices at the pump in the eastern half of the country, which depends heavily on Gulf Coast refineries for its fuel supply.
BP (BP: news, chart, profile) officials could not say which units had been involved in the mishap or how badly damaged they might be.
"There are other parts of the refinery that are in operation," company spokesman Hugh Depland said. "I don't know what products they are producing."
While it was still too early to know what caused the blast, terrorism was not a prime suspect, BP said.
Company officials confirmed several workers had been killed and injured, but they did not know how many, adding that they were still trying to account for all the workers near the blast site. The plant employs about 1,800 people.
The Houston Chronicle reported on its Web site that four people had been killed by the explosion and 23 hospitalized with injuries, some of them critical, at nearby medical centers.
Television reports from the scene showed extensive damage to parts of the refinery, which was crawling with firefighters and rescue crews.
BP's 1,200-acre Texas City refining complex, just north of Galveston and south of Houston, is the third-largest refinery in the United States, processing about 435,000 barrels of oil a day through 30 refining units.
It accounts for roughly 30 percent of BP's refining capacity in North America and turns out 3 percent of the nation's refined petroleum products, according to BP's Web site.
The accident coincides with a critical time in the annual gasoline market cycle, when refiners are coming out of spring maintenance and increasing production to build inventories ahead of the summer driving season.
It's Bush's fault.
The cost of petrol cannot stay this high forever--and when the stock market starts to go back up, as it always does, those of us who buy in this market will benefit.
Yet another non-suspicious fire/explosion at a refinery/fuel depot/fuel transportation facility.
Why not? The way the Federal Reserve is printing money today, the $/bbl exchange rate looks like it can continue to increase.
Yep, I can't conceive of how a massive complex with thousands of tanks, valves, and pipes filled with flammable and explosive liquids and gases can ever have an ACCIDENTAL explosion.
Are you suggesting that this accident and previous ones are linked to terrorism?
The discounts on a new big block pickup truck ought to be pretty attractive this time next week.
This sounds awfully familiar -- a year ago almost to the day, just prior to the switchover to gasoline from home heating fuel for the summer driving season.
If I were the suspicious type ....
I swear I read a post a few days ago to the effect "it's time for the annual spring refinery fire to juice up gas prices".
March 23, 2005, 6:30PM
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
SEE IT NOW Dwight Andrews / APFlames erupt from the BP-Amoco plant in Texas City after an explosion Wednesday afternoon.
Photo gallery: Images from the scene.
Slideshow: BP refinery explosion
Family members may call 409-945-1400 to inquire about BP-Amoco employees.
What to do:
Shelter in place: Kit list and instructions
Chemical emergency: What to do.
BP-Amoco: Texas City plant Web site
Emissions events: In Galveston County March 9-23, 2005.
TCEQ air monitors:
Nessler Pool A-100: 17th at 5th, Texas City
34th Street: 2212 34th St., Texas City
Ball Park: 2516 1/2 Texas Ave., Texas City
Video, slideshow courtesy KHOU
TEXAS CITY - An explosion rocked a BP plant this afternoon, killing at least four people and critically injuring others.
University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston is treating 22 patients from the explosion, said Dr. Brian Zachariah. Three are in critical condition, including one in the hospitals' burn unit, Three others are listed as serious, and the rest are in fair condition. Medical director Joan Richardson confirmed four people died at the plant site.
Another 50 victims of the plant explosion were admitted to Mainland Medical Center in Texas City, spokesman Harold Fattig said. He add that figure included both people brought in by ambulance as well as walk-ins.
Clear Lake Regional Medical Center was also treating walk-in patients. Some were complaining of ringing in their ears and blood in the ears.
Confirming only "multiple" fatalities and injuries, a BP spokesman said that with 1,800 workers, it's "a little confusing" to account for everyone, but that's the top priority. Rescuers continue to look for survivors in the debris strewn across the plant site, and families can call 409-945-1400 if they haven't heard from someone who works at the BP plant.
BP said the explosion, reported about 1:20 p.m., took place at a gasoline refinery's octane unit. The blast shook nearby homes, rattled windows and sent huge plumes of black smoke into the air that could be seen from Galveston to Clear Lake. Texas City residents were initially told to stay indoors, but emergency management officials lifted the order at 2:10 p.m. when the fire was brought under control.
Associated PressAn ambulance leaves the BP plant.
Nearby roads have been closed, including those at the plant entrances on Texas 146 and FM 1765. The Houston Ship Channel was briefly closed but has reopened.
The fire began in the isomer unit, which produces components used to raise the octane content of gasoline, according to Hugh Depland, BP's general manager for public affairs.
Brian Rutherford, a public health planner with the Galveston County Health District, said the primary chemical involved was naptha, a solvent that can release carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide when burned. If inhaled it can cause dizziness, nausea and headaches. It also can cause skin and eye irritation, according to its Material Safety Data Sheet.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality monitors permanently in the area were in the midst of taking a 24-hour sample of the air near the plant when the explosion occurred, said Adria Dawidczik, a TCEQ spokeswoman.
The U.S. Homeland Security agency said the Coast Guard will be looking to rule out the possibility of terrorism. In addition, a team of chemical safety investigators are on their way from Washington D.C. to conduct a preliminary probe of the explosion. When the explosion happened, Charles Mantell, 63, an electrical engineer, and Judith Mantell, 62, a social worker, were standing in the front yard of their second home on Tiki Island, which faces the chemical plant about five miles across Galveston Bay. They were waiting for a repairman to continue the renovations on their house.
Suddenly, Judith Mantell said, there was a sharp and short boom that shook her home, rattled her windows and skipped her truck a couple of inches across the ground.
Startled, she looked into the sky to look for a plane but instead saw the tallest flames she has ever seen in her life, she said.
"It was unbelievable, the flames shot more than 70 feet into the air. I've never seen flames that high from anything, they were bright orange, with yellow on the side,'' she said.
The flames were followed by thick, black plumes of smoke. Inhaling the air, she did not smell smoke or any other type of fumes from the plant; a relief Judith Mantell said.
"It's nothing but chemical plants over there, but this is the first time weve ever seen something like this,'' she said. ``But we often smell fumes from across the Bay.''
She added: "There have been times when the fumes have made me sick - when the fumes have burned my eyes and nose."
Michael Martin, a 49-year-old plant operator for an electric company and life-long resident of Texas City, was at home, sleeping before going to work a night shift.
The explosion, "like a sonic boom,'' shook him out of his slumber. He awoke to the house shaking and the sound of paintings crashing of the walls onto the floor. But Martin has lived in Texas City all his life, surrounded by petrochemical plants, so even half asleep, he guessed what had happened.
"This is probably my fourth or fifth one of these,'" he said.
He shot up out of bed and ran to a back bedroom with a window that faces totoward the plants, about three miles away.
Carlos Antonio Rios/ChronicleVictims of the BP plant blast arrive at UTMB Galveston by Life Flight helicopter.
"The flames were shooting over the rooftops,'' he said. "I could see smoke, it was pretty bad, but it was blowing toward Galveston.''
Watching the flames tower over the rooftops, Martin looked toward the fire, and said he thought about the several friends he has that work in the plants.
"I know a few people that work out there. That's one of the first things that come to mind. You hope that your friends are OK. When you live in a community like this, of course you'll know people who work there,'' he said.
BP's Texas City complex includes 30 refinery units spread over 1,200 acres. With 460,000 barrels of crude oil processed every day, the plant provides 3 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply.
The refinery also ranks as the eighth largest polluter in the state of Texas. It released 5.1 million pounds of pollutants in 2002, according to the latest data, including some chemicals that are known carcinogens and cause other serious health effects.
A population of 31, 413 people resides within a three-mile radius of the refinery.
Daniel Horowitz, director of public affairs for the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, said a seven-member team will do an initial assessment of the incident to determine if the situation warrants a full investigation.
"The immediate priority when they get there is going to be to develop a list of eyewitnesses, to determine what chemicals were present at the facility and what kind of processes were underway at the time of the accident," he said.
The USCSB was in the Houston area late last year to conduct an investigation of the explosion at the Marcus Oil and Chemical plant on Dec. 3. That probe is still underway.
The USCSB is not a regulatory agency. According to the agency's website, the USCSB determines the causes of accidents but does not issue fines or penalties.
Chronicle staffers Kevin Moran, Rosanna Ruiz, Michael Hedges, Eric Hanson, Dina Cappiello, Bill Hensel and Lynn Cook contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.Brett Coomer / ChronicleFirefighters and rescue teams search the rubble for victims following an explosion at the Texas City BP refinery.
Be very careful getting long the mkt on this news (also, scare headline notwithstanding, front futures are back down to 158.39 as I write this, 2.4 cents below the scare spike high mentioned in the article.)
BS, it was a small reform unit and it will not affect gas prices.
When I entered Nursing School in Galveston in 1956, there were still many plastic surgery patients coming in to John Sealy Hospital (UTMB) for more work on their plastic surgery which started shortly after the blast.
That entire part of the Texas coast is wall to wall refineries and chemical plants--Beaumont and Port Arthur also have lots of these plants. I have always worried that this area would be a prime target for terrorists, but I have been assured that security around all these places is extremely tight.
I don't know if there is any correlation to air quality in these parts, but approximately 25% of my high school graduation class of 1955 have died from various forms of cancer.
I was four years old riding my tricycle in Goose Creek, Texas (now Baytown), near Texas City, when Texas City blew up in 1947. That's one of my earliest memories. One would remember the earth shaking and a giant boom. Immediately, my mother came runnnig down the sidewalk, looking for me, and calling my name. It was the worst industrial accident in U.S. history.
I remember when Goose Creek was Goose Creek--LOL!
Nor could I imagine that a few shady operators in the futures markets have a hand in having some low life throw a monkey wrench into that complicated mess, nope couldn't imagine that.
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