Port Neches, Texas — TPC Group LLC is facing a fine of more than a half a million dollars by the federal government for a November 2019 butadiene plant explosion.
The $514,692 proposed fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor comes from the company exposing employees "to workplace safety and health hazards" following the mishap, the federal agency said.
The Port Neches facility was rocked on Nov. 27 after vapor formed and ignited at the base of a butadiene finishing tower. There were several explosions and fires at the facility, OSHA said.
"OSHA cited TPC for three willful violations for failing to develop and implement procedures for emergency shutdown, and inspect and test process vessel and piping components," the agency said in a statement.
TPC had 15 business days from notification from OSHA to comply, contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, or seek a conference with OSHA's area director. The review commission is an independent group.
The facility has an annual butadiene extraction capacity of 426,000 metric tons, which is about 17 percent of all U.S. capacity, according to previous reports.
A pair of TPC workers and a contractor were injured during the emergency, and approximately 60,000 residents were evacuated after the explosion. They were allowed to return four days later.
It was just about two months later that a Unified Command response to the explosion, including state, local and company officials, stood down and turned management of the situation over to the company.
"TPC Group has a highly skilled and dedicated team managing the response efforts, and they have demonstrated the capability and competency to manage this event and bring it safely to an end," Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said then.
County judges in Texas also serve as chief administrators for their jurisdictions.
"This is a significant milestone in the community's and TPC Group's progress toward recovery. Our focus has always been on community and site safety in protection of health and the environment, and those objectives continue to be met," Branick said at the time.
The company has said the explosion attracted reaction by more than 20 federal, state and local organizations. "More than 2,570 people participated in the response effort, including first responders, emergency responders, and environmental and remediation specialists," TPC said.
TPC, in January, also indicated that air monitoring would continue on facility property, including the use of 10 stationary locations at the fence line, 17 stationary locations inside the fence and 15 roaming locations inside the fence at that time.
"Based on the continued 'non-detect' readings in the community and the continued monitoring at the fence line, the radius of community monitoring will be reduced to the site perimeter," TPC said.
An April update on a portion of the company's website dedicated to providing information following the blast indicated all finished butadiene has been removed from the site. About 75 percent of all other butadiene-containing materials also had been moved off-site. The company was working to move other materials, including crude C4 and raffinate, in a process expected to be completed in mid-summer. Raffinate is what remains after butadiene is removed from crude C4.
Crude C4 is produced at ethylene crackers that use oil and natural gas to produce ethylene and propylene. TPC receives crude C4 from crackers around the world. Ethylene from crackers have a variety of uses, but the most common is the production of polyethylene. Butadiene, meanwhile, is a chemical intermediate that's used to make synthetic rubbers and elastomers.
By April, air monitoring had changed to four stationary monitors at the fence line, 14 stationary monitors inside the fence and 21 roaming air monitors inside the fence.