"Catastrophic failure" cited in deadly Geismar plant explosion
GEISMAR - Investigators claim a "catastrophic failure" in a heat exchanger and associated piping were involved in the fatal Williams Olefins plant explosion on June 13th.
Monday, the Chemical Safety Board and Williams-Olefins released their initial findings. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) is also completing an investigation into the explosion that killed Zachary Green, 29, and Scott Thrower, 47, as well.
The CSB managing director Daniel Horowitz said investigators believe a catastrophic failure occurred in a heat exchanger and associated piping, but he would not say if that was the caused of the overall event.
"There are still unknowns about the sequence of what happened, until we can get in and inspect the equipment closer in," Horowitz said. "We do not know why the failure occurred at this point, but we are bringing in metallurgical experts to see if the metal was weakened in some way, or there was some source of pressure inside."
In Williams Olefins' initial assessment, the company concluded the explosion originated in the propylene fractionator area and involved piping, heat exchangers and reboilers that were adjacent to the propylene fractionator. Those areas have been seriously damaged and will likely need to be replaced, officials claimed.
The report also says sections of the electrical cable trays, a power cable and control wiring need to be replaced. Other parts of the plant such as pipe rack containing portions of the plant steam system, pipeline ethane feed vaporization systems, and fuel-gas conditioning equipment sustained damage that will require the replacement of support structures and significant amounts of piping.
The plant remains closed while the investigation is ongoing. A spokesperson with the company says all Williams Olefins employees are getting regular pay.
Williams Olefins says one contract worker remains in the hospital because of the blast.
OSHA officials would not comment on the ongoing investigation. A spokesperson with the agency said it's unknown how long the investigation will take, but they have six months to complete it.
A U.S. Senate Committee will hold a hearing Thursday to address issues that led up the Geismar plant explosion. The hearing is titled "Oversight of Federal Risk Management and Emergency Planning Programs to Prevent and Address Chemical Threats, Including the Events Leading Up to the Explosions in West, TX and Geismar, LA."