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WATCH: Dramatic fire at Exxon’s Baytown refinery now under control

PortandTerminal.com, August 1, 2019

Exxon Mobil Corp brought under control a fire that erupted on Wednesday at its Baytown, Texas, refining and chemical plant complex, injuring 37 workers, none seriously

HOUSTON, TX – A large explosion and fire broke out Wednesday at Exxon Mobil Baytown petrochemical and refinery complex near Houston, causing minor injuries to at least 37 workers.

This latest incident comes on the heels of another less serious fire at Exxon’s Baytown refinery last March 16th when a section of the refinery caught fire and burned for over four hours.

Flames and smoke rise after an explosion and fire Wednesday at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown facility near Houston.  PHOTO: YI-CHIN LEE/HOUSTON CHRONICLE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jason Duncan, Exxon’s plant manager for the complex’s Olefins Plant where yesterday’s fire occurred commented on the incident. “We had a fire and explosion, and we don’t know what the cause of that incident is, but I can tell you that we’re going to work diligently to figure it out so it doesn’t happen again, he said. “What’s on fire is propane and polypropylene, a light hydrocarbon mixture.”

Firefighters continued to spray water on a charred column where the fire began late Wednesday. Residents around the plant were told to close windows and doors, turn off air conditioning and remain in their homes, schools or offices. A shelter in place order was lifted after several hours.

Mr. Duncan told reporters that as of Wednesday afternoon the fire had been “isolated and contained,” but not yet fully extinguished. He said an alert to nearby residents to “shelter in place” remained in effect. The fire wasn’t creating any adverse impact to the environment, he said, although he added air monitoring would continue.

Exxon’ Baytown Refinery

Exxon’s Baytown complex, which employs some 7,000 workers and includes a 561,000-barrel-a-day refinery, was founded in 1919, and it “is one of the largest integrated and most technologically advanced refining and petrochemical complexes in the world.” The complex’s refinery processes crude oil to make gasoline and other fuels. The petrochemical part of the complex, where the fire happened, makes plastics for consumer products, automobiles, car bumpers and other applications.

The complex is on 3,400 acres along the Houston Ship Channel, about 25 miles east of Houston.

Baytown Expansion in the works

In May this year, Exxon announced that it will be investing $2 billion into expanding its Baytown chemical complex. The company says that the project is an add-on to its $20-billion-plus “Growing the Gulf” series of projects to build and expand manufacturing facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

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