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Petrochemicals Factbox: Arkema reports explosions at Crosby, Texas, plant

Dallas (Platts)--31 Aug 2017 346 pm EDT/1946 GMT


The first of nine containers that hold decomposing liquid organic peroxides at Arkema's Crosby, Texas, site, saw two explosions early Thursday, the company said in a statement a day after it had warned of such eruptions after what is now Tropical Depression Harvey partially submerged its operations northeast of Houston and knocked out power.

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The fire was contained, and residents within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant had already either been evacuated or warned of the dangers. The company on Thursday advised those who stayed to remain in their homes, because more fires and explosions are expected as the volatile peroxides in the other eight containers also degrade and combust as they warm up.

The company said Harris County's Emergency Operations Center notified Arkema of two explosions and black smoke coming from the plant at about 2 am CDT (0700 GMT).

In a news conference later Thursday morning, Rich Rennard, president of Arkema's acrylic monomers business, told reporters the explosions likely stemmed from pressure valves on the container popping open as the organic peroxides inside degraded. Organic peroxides left unrefrigerated become volatile as they decompose and warm up, he said.

"We fully expect the other eight containers to do the same thing," Rennard said. "We believe the safest thing to do is let the product in those other eight containers degrade and burn."

Arkema shut the site as Harvey came ashore in the middle of the Texas Coast late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane. Harvey weakened to a tropical storm and moved east, drowning much of Houston with more than 51 inches of rain in some places, according to the US National Weather Service.

Click the image to view a larger size.

Hurricane Harvey all infrastructure map

The Crosby, Texas, plant produces liquid organic peroxides that are used primarily in the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC and polyester reinforced fiberglass, and acrylic resins used in vehicles, food packaging, health and cleaning products.

The storm forced shutdowns of more than 50% of ethylene production capacity and other derivative units at petrochemical complexes from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana state line, with major ports and railroads idle as the region begins to dry out.


PRODUCTION


* Huntsman is on schedule to restart its Conroe, Texas, specialty chemicals site Thursday, while its complex in Port Neches, Texas, remained shut following Harvey's drenching of the region, a company spokeswoman said. The Conroe plant was put on safe-shutdown mode Monday. The site produces intermediates used in chemicals manufacturing, cosmetics, coatings and other applications. Operations at Port Neches include a steam cracker with an ethylene production capacity estimated at just under 200,000 mt/year, as well as MTBE production capacity of 766,000 mt/year.

* Dow Chemical has restarted a 1 million mt/year cracker at its Freeport, Texas, complex that was shut during Harvey's onslaught after a lightning strike interrupted steam supply, a spokesman said.

* OxyVinyls on Thursday declared a force majeure on polyvinyl chloride, citing the impact on its Houston-area facilities from Harvey, a source with knowledge of company operations said. The force majeure applies to PVC sold in the US and Canada, as well as PVC exports, according to a customer communication obtained by S&P Global Platts.

* LyondellBasell has declared force majeure on supplies of acetyls in the US Gulf in the aftermath of Harvey, market sources said. Another US producer, Celanese also placed its vinyl acetate monomer supplies under force majeure late Tuesday.


Major US petrochemical complexes impacted by Harvey


Major US petrochemical complexes impacted by Harvey


PRICING


* US spot benzene prices rose Thursday morning, bolstered by crude market strength and steady downstream demand, sources said. Indications for September DDP benzene were heard at 275-280 cents/gal while October was heard at 274-278 cents/gal DDP USG. The market appeared backwardated from October to November with bids for the latter heard at 270 cents/gal DDP USG against offers at 277 cents/gal DDP USG. US benzene markets have been hovering at three-month highs.


LOGISTICS


* The Texas port of Corpus Christi is still targeting September 4 for a return to normal operations, spokeswoman Patricia Cardenas said. The port remains closed -- to all but limited inner harbor traffic -- for damage assessments and while the US Army Corps of Engineers surveys shipping channels. Initial assessments over the weekend found "light to moderate" damage and debris from the storm, she said.

--Staff reports, newsdesk@spglobal.com
--Edited by Jason Lindquist, jason.lindquist@spglobal.com

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