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Watch: Houston Chemical Fires to rage for days until fuel burns out

PortandTerminal.com, March 18, 2019

Houston, TX – Texas firefighters are in “defensive mode” as they seek to contain a blaze that spread to seven tanks storing liquids at a facility used to make gasoline in Deer Park, near the city’s busy shipping channel.

No employees at the facility were missing and no injuries were reported, Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) the operator of the storage facility, said in a statement. The risk of explosion was “minimal” but ITC was attempting to drain naphtha from one of the burning tanks, it said.

The fire began Sunday morning in a giant storage tank containing naphtha, a volatile substance used to create octane-boosting components of gasoline.

Containing the fire

Seven tanks containing naphtha and xylene, petrochemicals used to make gasoline and base oils commonly used as machine lubricants, were burning, officials said. On Monday, a tank containing Toluene also caught fire. Toluene is used to manufacture nail polish remover and paint thinner.

The burning tanks are surrounded by other storage tanks within a spill containment dike. Firefighters used a foam fire retardant on nearby tanks to try to limit the fire from spreading.

Ships continued to cross the 50-mile-long channel, which is part of the Port of Houston linking refineries and chemical plants in Houston and Texas City, with the Gulf of Mexico.

Location of the fire

The tank farm occupies 265 acres on the Houston Ship Channel east of the city. It can store more than 13 million barrels of chemicals, petroleum, fuel oil and gases. It serves marine, train and trucking transport with five tanker berths and its own rail spur.

The fire is burning at Intercontinental Terminals Co near the busy Houston Ship Channel amongst multiple other tank facilities Photo: Google Maps

At least two more days

“It’s going to be probably two days,” said Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which coordinates firefighting departments from ship channel plants.

“It’s going to have to burn out at the tank,” Russell told reporters at a mid-morning news conference.

School officials in Deer Park, population 32,000, and nearby La Porte, Texas, with about 34,000 residents, suspended classes and told employees not to report to work on Monday.

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