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2005 Formosa fire burned for five days

May 2, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.
Updated May 3, 2013 at 12:03 a.m.

A late afternoon explosion at the Formosa Plastics Point Comfort plant near Port Lavaca TX sent plumes of smoke and flames high into the air. Several flare off pipes were burning off residual material, however a large fire was burning below the lower layers of smoke, Thursday Oct 6, 2005.  Photos taken on the Port Lavaca side of the causeway looking towards Point Comfort.

What Went Wrong In 2005

•  A trailer being towed by a fork lift caught a valve protruding from a propylene piping system and pulled it out.

•  The pressurized liquid propylene escaped and partially vaporized, creating a both a pool of liquid and an expanding vapor cloud.

• The vapor cloud ignited.

• A large pool fire burned under the pipe rack and the side of an elevated structure that supported numerous vessels, heat exchanges and relief valves.

• About 30 minutes later, the side of the elevated structure collapsed, leading to multiple ruptures of piping and equipment.

• Fuel sources were isolated where possible and small fires were allowed to burn the uncontained hydrocarbons.

• Revise policies and procedures to more fully evaluate vehicle impact hazards, passive fire protection and catastrophic releases.

• Require flame resistant clothing for workers in units at the Point Comfort complex where there is a risk of flash fires.

SOURCE: U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Case Study

Thursday's fire at Formosa Plastics was the most serious incident at the plant since an October 2005 fire that burned for five days.

The 2005 fire injured 16, led to the evacuation of the elementary school and basically shut down the town of Point Comfort for about six hours with a shelter-in-place order.

A plant-wide evacuation was ordered after an explosion in the Olefins 2 unit, which was followed by additional explosions that resulted in a large fire that enveloped the plant in black smoke.

The Olefins 2 unit was shut down for five months.

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