Chemical plant burns in SE Houston

May 17, 2010 5:30:54 PM PDT
Fire erupted at a southeast Houston refinery Monday, sparking a shelter-in-place for the immediate area. It happened at the Lyondell plant, where a thick black cloud of smoke could be seen for miles. The plant is located at 12000 Lawndale at Highway 225.

LyondellBassell representative David Harpole said the fire started around 2:30pm at one of their two crude distillation units, which take in crude oil and upgrades it into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other type of lubricants. He told Eyewitness News that emergency procedures were enacted.

Firefighters were able to tame and eventually extinguish the fire about an hour later by stopping the flow of crude into the tower and by dousing the base of the tower with water.

"With no fuel and no oxygen, the fire was extinguished very quickly at that point," Harpole said.

LyondellBassell told us there are no reports of work injuries, but two firefighters suffered heat-related injuries but are recovering from heat-related injuries.

"There would typically be only be one or two people in the field around that area," Harpole said. "It's not something that requires an active level of operation. It's typically something that can be done in one of the control rooms at another part of the facility."

It was originally reported that residents were asked to shelter in place. However, Pasadena officials later stated that the wind pushed the smoke away from the city, and it wasn't ever warranted.

Pasadena ISD and Houston ISD also did not impose a shelter-in-place at any schools near the plant.

The unit will remain closed until investigators determine the cause of the fire. It wasn't immediately clear how long the probe is expected to last.

"We're hopeful that we can get in there later this evening and try to get an indication of just whether a leak occurred, and if there was a leak, what we might need to do to repair that, and to look to see whether any other equipment was damaged as a result of the fire," Harpole said.

Early this year, a worker died in a fall from a platform at a LydondellBassell refinery. In July 2008, one of the largest crane's in the world collapsed near the Houston Ship Channel. Four contract workers were killed and seven others hurt at the LyondellBasell refinery.

According to industry publications, the plant covers 700 acres along Houston's Ship Channel and was one of the first refineries built in the region back in 1918.

If you shot images of the fire, send them to Eyewitness News.


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