Pasadena chemical plant fire was caused by accidental tanker leak, fire marshal’s office says

PASADENA, Texas (KTRK) — Investigators believe they’ve pinpointed the cause of an explosion and massive fire at a Pasadena plant on Wednesday — and they say it was an accident.

One person was injured in the blast at about 12:07 p.m. at the INEOS Phenol plant along Highway 225 near the East Beltway.

Houston TranStar cameras captured the large explosion and fireball. Smoke and flames could be seen from miles away.

Harris County Pollution Control said there weren’t any impacts to air quality in the area.

“Fortunately, we have good wind blowing whatever was up high and aloft in the flame, and the fire, the smoke,” Dr. Latrice Babin said. “So, we are not expecting there to be any impact.”

One worker was hurt in the blast. The person was conscious, alert and stable at the hospital, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

There’s no word on the individual’s identity or the nature of any injuries. Everyone at the plant was accounted for, officials said.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Crews extinguish massive fire after ‘bleve explosion’ reported at Pasadena chemical plant

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said the explosion was triggered as liquified petroleum gas was being transferred from one tanker to another through a hose, and the first tanker had an unintentional leak.

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia described the incident as a “bleve explosion” involving over-the-road tanker trucks, not rail cars.

“When you have a liquid petroleum or a liquid propane inside a tank, the fire that occurred outside can heat the tank to the point that the inside is boiling and the pressure is so great that it overcomes the release mechanisms, the safety valves, and the container holding it explodes,” Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office Chief Investigator Mitchell Weston said when asked to describe a bleve explosion.

Residents who live around the plants in east Harris County said they’re used to it.

“Well, you know, this is our life,” Arnanoldo Contreras said. “We have to keep on going, whatever you have to do.”

According to the company’s website, INEOS makes several products related to oil and gas, as well as other chemicals such as PVC, plastic chemicals and chlorine.

Officials said operations at the INEOS facility will resume without using the damaged tanks.

The investigation into exactly what happened will continue on Thursday.

For more on this story, follow Erica Simon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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