MOSCOW (MRC) -- The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) says it has been unable to enter TPC’s Port Neches, Texas, facility, but interviews with the three employees injured by the explosion at 1 a.m. on 27 November suggest that the incident began with a leak in a processing unit, reported Chemweek.
"They reported a loss of process fluid from a unit and tried to evacuate the scene," CSB board member Manuel Ehrlich said at a news conference held Thursday and reported by the Beaumont Enterprise, a local newspaper. The fluid, probably butadiene, vaporized and soon ignited, Ehrlich said, stressing that the information was preliminary, and that the cause of the release had not been identified. The incident, he said, represented a "fundamental failure of the system."
The fire that followed destroyed two distillation towers at the site and significantly damaged two others before it was extinguished on 4 December. On 6 December, TPC reported that small residual fires had been identified and were being contained.
Citing Jason Sanders, environmental manager of TPC’s Houston facility, the Beaumont Enterprise says TPC has begun planning to transfer products stored at Port Neches to other TPC facilities "while repairs are underway." The report says 71 spherical storage tanks contained raffinate, butadiene, and other products at the time of the explosion, while 17 cylindrical atmospheric tanks held methanol, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), and N-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP). TPC says 12 tanks were damaged by fire.
Located adjacent to the Sabine Neches River, which is part of the Sabine Neches Waterway, TPC's Port Neches plant can produce more than 900 million lb (426,000 mt) of butadiene and raffinate a year, according to the company's website. The source familiar with company operations said the site has two butadiene lines with capacities of 166,000 mt/year and 260,000 mt/year. The MTBE unit at this site produces up to 400,000 mt/year.
Butadiene is one of the feedstocks for the production of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS).
According to ICIS-MRC Price report, in Asia, the falling prices of feedstocks for ABS production have been pushing prices of material down in the Russian market. LG Chem's import prices for November quantities were as follows for Russian buyers: natural ABS - at USD1,400-1,420/tonne FOB Korea, black ABS - at USD1,610-1,630/tonne FOB Korea, white ABS - at USD1,640-1,660/tonne FOB Korea. December prices may drop by another USD30-50/tonn.
Natural grades of Korean ABS went down to Rb138,000-143,000/tonne CPT Moscow, including VAT, in the domestic market in mid-November, whereas black ABS was offered at Rb156,000-160,000/tonne and white ABS - at Rb158,000-163,000/tonne CPT Moscow , including VAT.
Headquartered in Houston, TPC was acquired in 2012 by private equity groups First Reserve and SK Capital.