Remaining materials burn at Arkema plant, residents return home

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Arkema Arkema's Crosby, Texas, plant

Residents are returning to their homes in Crosby, Texas, after officials launched controlled fires at the Arkema Inc. plastics catalyst plant that was damaged by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

Company officials, the Crosby Fire Department and government officials set the fires after 5 p.m. Sept. 3.

The remaining six containers storing organic peroxide products burned themselves out. At 2 a.m. on Sept. 4 authorities decided that it was safe to residents to return, so the 1.5 mile evacuation zone surrounding the facility was lifted.

Arkema said it was opening an assistance center at Crosby High School to provide assistance to people who were affected by the evacuation order.

Officials decided to conduct what they called a controlled ignition of remaining trailers rather than risk additional damage to the facility or spreading into the surrounding area.

As of Sept. 3, multiple trailers of organic peroxide had caught fire following the refrigeration units being compromised by catastrophic flood waters.

The site lost power Aug. 28 as Hurricane Harvey flooded the area. As a result, refrigeration units failed and were not able to keep the organic peroxides stable.

Daryl Roberts, the firm's vice president of manufacturing, technology and regulatory services in the Americas, said about 500,000 pounds of the liquid material remained at the site as of the morning of Sept. 1, but shortly after 5 p.m. Central time, fire ignited in two more containers holding the material, Arkema said in a news release.

The Crosby plant makes liquid organic peroxides that are used primarily in the production of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC and acrylic resins, as well as polyester-reinforced fiberglass.

The outage also could affect resin makers’ abilities to produce their materials, according to Clifford Lee, a market analyst with the Townsend Solutions consulting firm in Houston.

“Arkema is a big supplier of organic peroxides, and Crosby is a big plant,” Lee said in an Aug. 31 interview with Plastics News.

Arkema is a global supplier of specialty chemicals and plastics, based in Colombes, France, with North American headquarters in Philadelphia. The firm posted sales of almost $9 billion in 2016.

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