An “abnormal high-pressure condition” in a chemical reactor at Kuraray America’s Pasadena, Texas chemical plant led to the explosion that injured 21 workers last May.
Kuraray America Plant Explosion Followed Maintenance Turnaround
The Kuraray America EVAL plant had just completed a maintenance turnaround, when an explosion erupted on the 1200 production line shortly before 10:30 a.m. on May 19th.
According to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the chemical reactor became over-pressurized during pressure-testing activities.
As a result, a pressure-relief valve discharged more than 2,000 pounds of highly-flammable ethylene gas into the atmosphere.
Apparently, the vapor made contact with an ignition source near welding equipment in the back of a Dodge pickup truck.
“The flammable gas ignited, resulting in a large flash fire, which then propagated back to the relief valve outlet and became a jet fire,” the Board said.
21 Workers Hospitalized, Including 2 With Severe Burns
Although the fire burned for less than three minutes, several workers in the vicinity suffered burns.
Others were hurt when they jumped from heights or ran to escape the flames.
In total, 21 workers were taken to area hospitals, including two severely burned men who had to be airlifted from the plant.
The Chemical Safety Board will issue a final report and recommendations once its investigation into the Kuraray America chemical plant explosion is complete.
While it has as no authority to levy fines or issue new regulations, the Board’s recommendations have led to significant safety improvements at plants and refineries throughout the United States.
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