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On the heels of a hydrogen sulfide release in May at the Exxon Mobil plant in Baytown, Texas, which resulted in the workers sheltering in place, a second incident occurred on Sunday. A dilute propylene leak was discovered on Sunday in the pipeline from the oil refinery and chemical plant, which is the largest such facility in the United States.
As in the May incident, there were no injuries reported. The company said on Sunday that it was investigating the incident. At the time, the company shut down a pair of pipelines that carry the product; and issued a statement that it was cooperating with local emergency responders. The cause of the leak was not immediately known.
The leak was discovered around 10:00 a.m. local time. First responders were called out at approximately 10:10, and the Baytown Fire Department shut off the valves feeding the product to the affected areas of the pipeline.
Fire chief Victor Medrano said that fire crews took extra precautions since propylene does not easily dissipate. The substance is highly flammable, and has no odor or color. It is a by-product of the refining process, and can be used in the production of plastics and acetone. At 10:30, the local police department issued a shelter in place warning for nearby residents.
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There were also reports that local authorities had made a decision to evacuate residents.
Residents were asked to remain indoors, close off windows, doors and other ways outside air might reach their homes, and to seal any areas that might permit a leak. By Sunday afternoon, the shelter in place order was lifted.
A spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil, Ashley Smith Alemayehu said that the company would conduct an investigation into the leaks and that the pipelines would not be restarted until conditions were deemed safe.
Lincoln Brown for Oilprice.com
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Lincoln Brown is the former News and Program Director for KVEL radio in Vernal, Utah. He hosted “The Lincoln Brown Show” and was penned a…