Federal Investigators Release Preliminary Report on Deadly KMCO Plant Explosion
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has issued its preliminary report on the deadly KMCO plant explosion that tragically claimed the life of a worker in Crosby, Texas last April.
Crosby Plant Exploded as Workers Mixed Sulfurized Isobutylene
KMCO LLC’s Crosby plant manufactures coolant and brake fluid for the automotive industry, as well as chemicals for the oilfield industry.
The April 2nd explosion occurred as workers were mixing a batch of sulfurized isobutylene.
At approximately 10:46 a.m., an operator walking past the batch reactor heard a loud “pop” followed by a whooshing noise similar to an “air hose coming off.” He also observed a white vapor cloud hovering off the ground, described by a supervisor as a “two-foot river” of isobutylene vapor “going all the way down the road.”
Failure of Y-Strainer Allowed Flammable Vapors to Escape
According to the Chemical Safety Board’s September 17th report, a three-inch cast-iron Y-strainer between two pipes had failed, allowing the flammable vapors to escape. At that point, an operator issued an alert via the facility’s radio system: “Attention KMCO, evacuate the reaction area.”
KMCO operators and supervisors then proceeded to activate fire water monitors and shut down equipment. They also closed vehicle gates near the vapor release to keep workers from driving in the cloud.
Unfortunately, those efforts were not enough to prevent the Crosby plant explosion, and the vapor cloud ignited shortly before 10:50 a.m.
KMCO Plant Explosion Killed 27-Year Old Worker, Injured 30
A 27-year-old man died in the blast. According to the Board, his remains were later discovered near the entrance of a building in the plant that had previously been a control room. He had suffered a cut on the inside of his right upper arm, possibly from a sharp object going through the arm.
The KMCO plant explosion injured an additional 30 workers, including 7 company employees and 23 contractors. Two sustained severe burns.
A five-hour shelter in-place order was issued for anyone located within a mile of the plant.
Cause of KMCO Plant Explosion Remains Unknown
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has yet to pinpoint the cause of the Crosby plant explosion. Investigators are also working to determine whether KMCO had an adequate process safety management system in place.
Once the investigation concludes, the Board will issue a final report with recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.
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