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An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...
10

An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

(OP)
Chemical Plant Near Houston Warns It’s About To Explode

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/arkema-chemica...


Texas chemical plant could explode amid Harvey flooding

As chemicals heat up in a Crosby manufacturing plant, a large-scale fire or explosion looks increasingly likely.


https://www.texastribune.org/2017/08/30/crosby-che...


Harvey Danger: Major Chemical Plant Near Houston Likely to Explode, Facility Owner Warns

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/hurricane-harvey...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Similar to Fukishima - failing to keep the back-up generators out of the water.

If it doesn't detonate on its own, who wants to go in and try restarting the cooling system?

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

It's worst than just the generators as I think the CEO said the equipment is under water too. It should all be mounted up 3 stories. Then in the worse flooding you could bring in a generator on a barge and be back in business.

Now I hear there is a second chemical plant that's also going to detonate about a mile and a half from Arkema.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

What flood protection would be required from such a plant? like protecting tanks/pipes from floating, protecting safety relevant equipment up to a 100 or 200 year flood? Is there no such requirement, is there but no enforcement, or are the assesments of what a relevant level of flooding is too low?

Apparently the tanks are more or less full - could they have throttled production to have less inventory on site?

I also very muc hsee 3DDaves question, I don't see how to restart the cooling system. I mean, maybe you could design a plant so that control systems critical systems come online automatically when grid power turns on, but this is likely very much non-trivial.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Is it an option to vent and burn? If the chemicals are going to explode and burn soon, a controlled burn may avoid the explosions.

Bill
--------------------
"Why not the best?"
Jimmy Carter

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Per NPR, two explosions this morning and black smoke rising from the plant.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

would having a "Hurricane Plan" that mandated the plant be placed into a safe condition 24 hours before tropical storm conditions are expected have prevented the explosions

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

I'm surprised they did not have an emergency fallback in place to hydrolyze the material in case of total system failure. It isn't ideal, but at least the equipment and facility wouldn't be destroyed in the process.

Andrew H.
www.mototribology.com

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

It'll be interesting to see if Cruz and Texas delegation start adding infrastructure to the inevitable relief bill that they were adamantly opposed to after Sandy.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

(OP)
After the 2013 chemical explosion that virtually destroyed the city of West, TX, which killed 15 and hurt 226 people, the now Governor of Texas, Gregg Abbott, who was then the State's Attorney General, had state laws changed so that chemical companies were NO longer required to disclose the types nor the amount of chemicals which were stored near population centers. He ruled that this sort of information was proprietary to the corporations and therefore was not allowed to be made public or for that matter, to even report this information to the State of Texas. The citizens of Texas will be paying for this for years to come and Hurricane Harvey is just going to make it more obvious how the welfare of corporations come first in Texas and that of its citizens come second, or perhaps even third.

https://thinkprogress.org/koch-funded-texas-gubern...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

And I thought this was an engineering post.
Quoting from Huffington Post and ThinkProgress? Speculating about the specifics and intent of out-of-state legislation? Naming certain politicians as villains (while giving a pass to the other elected angels and the masses who voted for them all)?
For a minute I thought I was reading Mother Jones. At eng-tips, I'm hoping for a litle more Timoshenko and a little less Marx.
Okay, back to mechanics and materials.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Maartin,
What I wonder about is why they don't have a fully passive protection system, like liquid nitrogen backup cooling.
And the moving of product a week before a massive storm also sounds prudent.
Just put it in refr trucks and send it inland 200 mi, then have them drive back after the storm.
I hope that their insurance company really screws them over this.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

"like protecting tanks/pipes from floating, protecting safety relevant equipment up to a 100 or 200 year flood?"- Presumably, they had that, but then, this isn't a 100-year or 2--year flood, and therein lies the problem.

From one of the articles above: "The firm said it made extensive preparations for Harvey, but 'the plant has never experienced flooding of this magnitude before.'"

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Apparently some of these plants made organic peroxides like, but not limited to MEKP, which are now mixing in the water , they are now warning people not to get it in their eyes, No kidding.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

(OP)
Our oldest son and three of our granddaughters live in Texas, so YES, we are concerned for their well being and the impact of "out-of-state legislation".

And how can you say that this is NOT an engineering issue? If elected officials allow corporations to behave in a manner that can result in the loss of life of innocent people, where were the professionals who should have known better?

So you're suggesting that being concerned about the safe operation of things like chemical plants and planning for emergency scenarios is somehow an example of "Marxism", EH? I guess we know which sort of politician you're "giving a pass to"...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

How do the local fire departments feel about not knowing what sort of fire they might be fighting? And local hospitals for the sort of chemical effects? In Missouri there are similar laws against photographing puppy mills and hog farms on the excuse that terrorists would use that info.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

I think there was a chemical the company (Arkema) was supposed to have on hand to neutralize the problematic peroxides. They hadn't stock piled it.. Probably to hydrolyze the nasties as MotoLuber suggests.

If the entire plant is two or three stories in the air wouldn't floating pipes etc not be a problem? You wanna build a chemical plant in a known flood plain you should need to build it in the sky.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

2
I worked in a Hercules plant in NJ many years ago that made this product. Hercules went out of business due to the actions of a corporate raider and some of the former Hercules plants are now part of Arkema. The product is cumene hydroperoxide. Factory Mutual inspected the plant annualy and was worried about it back then, but I believe that Hercules was self insured at the time. I don't remember the cumene hydroperoxide as being refrigerated at the New Jersey plant, but Texas is much warmer than New Jersey.

Cumene is the common name for isopropylbenzene, an organic compound that is based on an aromatic hydrocarbon with an aliphatic substitution. It is a constituent of crude oil and refined fuels. Hercules had a patented process to air oxidize the cumene to form cumene hydroperoxide.

Cumene hydroperoxide was not the end product, but was stored as an intermediate. Products were sold as free flowing, off white powders that consisted of 40% active dicumyl peroxide supported on Burgess KE clay or calcium carbonate. The inert filler made the cumene hydroperoxide safer to handle.

The problem with cumene hydroperoxide is that it will undergo accelerated decomposition because of the oxygen that is present with the petroleum distillate.

Dicumyl peroxide is a strong free radical source ; used as a polymerization initiator, catalyst and vulcanizing agent. The half-life temperatures are 61 C (for 10 hours), 80 C (1 for 1 hour) and 120 C (for 1 minute). DCP decomposes rapidly, causing fire and explosion hazard, on heating and under influence of light. It reacts violently with incompatible substances or ignition sources (acids, bases, reducing agents, and heavy metals). It is recommended to store in a dry and refrigerated (< 27C or 39 C max) and to keep away from reducing agents and incompatible substances.

Storage tanks were required to have a "weak roof-to-shell seam" in case of an emergency. Otherwise, the tank could turn into a rocket. Small tanks had fusible plugs.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Thanks bimr. Sounds like fun stuff. :/

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Even if the material itself isn't toxic when burning, its container and other detritus lying around in the factory might be.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Incomplete combustion will release benzene which is a hazardous air pollutant.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Gasoline can contain up to 1.3% benzene, so let's not blow this out of proportion. The smoke from this fire is likely no more toxic than smelling gasoline. And we all know what that smells like on our hands. In the context of the hurricane it really is small potatoes. But you cannot sue a hurricane.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

There have been a number of first responded deaths in plant fires in TX.
Now in most areas they worry about evacuating people and protecting nearby structures, not saving the plant.
That is the owners problem.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

PResumably the water level at the plant is, or was, 1.8m above ground. Does anyone know where the level for a 100 or 200 year flood is?
If 100 and 200 year are typically used to assess plant safety in the US.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

The EPA under the clean air act has a list of regulated chemicals which require a risk management plan. Don't believe this chemical is on the list so it is up to the plant owner to handle it.

The problem is that in Texas, there is no zoning and the Governor has said there is no right to know for chemical inventories.

https://www.texastribune.org/2014/07/01/abbott-ask...

This policy was developed after the west texas fertilizer explosion where hundreds lived in close proximity:

http://www.csb.gov/chemical-safety-board-releases-...

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

According to this WSJ article (https://www.wsj.com/articles/arkema-report-said-ch...) the plant " stores 66,260 pounds of anhydrous sulfur dioxide. Under a hypothetical worst-case scenario outlined in the report, the gas, if released, could prove harmful for a radius of 23 miles" while it's unlikely the stuff will cover a neat 23 miles circle (wind mostly blows one way ata time), 23 miles is significantly large than the radius avacuated now, AFAIK.

this also caught my eye:
"... the tractor trailers that contain the organic peroxide, where they were stored in a failed effort to keep them cool after the backup generators lost power."
Would these be cooled trailers? Was this mentioned anywhere else?


RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

If I am understanding this, the chemicals were in tractor trailers? Why didn't they just get some trucks and move everything to higher ground before the storm landed? Before the storm landed people were already expecting 25" of rain.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

(OP)
They may have actually been freight containers, which means that they would have had to first get tractors and container trailers as well as a crane to lift the containers onto the trailers. I suspect that the company simply purchased old containers and used them as storage units instead of building a conventional structure. And if that's true, unless these were purpose-built refrigerated containers, it would seem that any DIY cooling gear might not have been all that adequate to start with.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Arkema Plant - Crosby, TX Before & Flooded Link

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

From the FAQ (http://www.arkema-americas.com/en/social-responsib...):

"The plant made extensive preparations prior to Hurricane Harvey. We have backup generators at the site solely for the purpose of being a redundant power supply for refrigeration necessary for the safe storage of products. We also brought in diesel powered refrigerated tank trailers and additional fuel as a further redundancy. Employees safely shut down all operations on Friday, August 25, prior to the hurricane’s landfall. We left a small “ride-out” crew on site to address situations that could arise at the site during the storm to protect the safety and security of the community. The site lost primary power early Sunday morning August 27. The additional back-up generators subsequently were inundated by water and failed. On Monday, August 28 temperature sensitive products were transferred into 8 diesel-powered refrigerated containers where they currently reside. We evacuated the ride-out crew on Tuesday, August 29 for their safety. As of August 30, most of the refrigeration units have failed due to flooding. The site itself is now completely flooded and inaccessible except by boat. In conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Texas, Arkema has set up a command post in an off-site location near the plant."

Looking at epoxybots pictures, the area seems to fall towards the lower right (SE?). The long things in the road bend towards the upper right of the plant in the flooded pic could be the trailers? Maybe they simply don't have higher ground.

IMO flood protection is hard to do when it's not baked into the design of a plant. That's why I'm asking for typical flood levels, should they (legally) have prepared for this? Are Texas' assessments of flood levels up to date, given that the frequency of extreme weather events will rise due to gloabal warming?

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

I am feeling this is all stupid. They are in a 500 year flood plain and right next to the 100 year. So, every year they were gambling a 0.2% chance that their plant would blow up? How can you talk about how much stuff you did and are doing when you basically when you basically were gambling every year knowing you were in a flood plain?

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

I heard on the BBC today that Arkema was being sued. So someone is already after them.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

3

Quote (Compositepro)

Gasoline can contain up to 1.3% benzene, so let's not blow this out of proportion. The smoke from this fire is likely no more toxic than smelling gasoline. And we all know what that smells like on our hands. In the context of the hurricane it really is small potatoes. But you cannot sue a hurricane.
The owner of the plant felt the same way.

The company initially called the smoke inhaled by police officers as a “nontoxic irritant.” When pressed by reporters at an Aug 31 news conference, Rich Rennard, president of Arkema’s North American operations, said “the smoke is certainly noxious.” But he added that toxicity is “a relative thing.” And he said “it’s not a chemical release that’s happening, and I want to be clear about that.”

At another news conference, Rennard was asked whether responders should “consider that ash to be more dangerous than something from a campfire or normal fire?” He replied that “it’s debris that would be similar to a house fire.”

Asked on Aug. 31 about how dangerous the chemical fire was, Robert W. Royall, assistant chief of emergency operations for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s office, told The Washington Post: “That’s really relative. If you’re standing right next to something and you had a chemical release, it would probably be pretty dangerous. But we have a mile and half safety radius and there’s nobody in that plant.” He added, “You don’t go stick your head in a barbecue pit or anything. You wouldn’t want to breath that smoke in.’’


So while you can't sue the hurricane, you can sue the owner. And to that end, the first responders are.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environ...

As for the 'it's just lkike sniffing a drop of gasoline on your hand', there's a difference between a drop of gasoline for a fleeting moment and being subjected to it over the course of days. In excess of a million pounds of hazardous pollutants were release including benzene, 1,3-butadiene, hexane, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, toluene and xylene.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environ...

A city health department air monitor downwind of the refinery on Friday registered an alarming level of up to 14,000 parts per billion of volatile organic compounds, some carcinogenic, said department chief scientist Loren Raun, and aerial monitoring continued to detect benzene on Monday.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Quote (HamburgerHelper)

I am feeling this is all stupid. They are in a 500 year flood plain and right next to the 100 year. So, every year they were gambling a 0.2% chance that their plant would blow up? How can you talk about how much stuff you did and are doing when you basically when you basically were gambling every year knowing you were in a flood plain?

From the article I linked in the post above:

The suit accuses Arkema of negligence for failing to adequately prepare for an extreme flood, improperly storing chemicals at the plant, and not having a more reliable backup form of refrigeration.

The company has failed to answer questions from The Post about whether the backup diesel generators were elevated or whether they were resting on the floor of the plant, which eventually was under six feet of water.

RE: An example of a potential 'disaster' which could still happen as a result of Hurricane Harvey...

Agree with you Spartan5, isopropylbenzene is 99% pure chemical, not something that is at a 1.3% concentration.

In addition to the chemicals, the truck trailer was on fire releasing additional compounds.

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