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Petrochem Plant Gas Forces Texas Town To Evacuate

An order for voluntary evacuation was issued for the town of Port Neches in Texas yesterday, after the detection of higher levels of a petroleum derivative gas used in a petrochemical plant near the city.

Reuters reports that in several parts of the town 1,3-butadiene levels were found to be elevated, even though they did not pose a serious health risk. Still, the chemical can cause nausea, headache, dizziness, and eyes and throat irritation.

The town of Port Neches gained notoriety last month when a petrochemicals plant, property of TPC Group, became the sight of an explosion. At the time, it was believed that the explosion occurred on a processing facility for specification 1,3-butadiene: a  gas used to make synthetic rubber. The fire burned for six days until ultimately it died out on its own when fire fighters gave up on trying to put it out.

The facility was originally built by the US government during WWII as part of a synthetic rubber program, as the US looked for alternatives to the natural rubber supply from Asia that became unavailable to the US. Today, TPC Group occupies 35% of the United States butadiene market.

Related: OPEC’s Number Two Suggests Deeper Oil Output Cuts

The plant was shut down last week but now a spokeswoman for TPC Group has announced the company plans to rebuild it.

“Our focus has been on mitigating the emergency and we have not assessed the condition of the remaining asset and infrastructure. At this point, we plan to rebuild the site,” said Sara Cronin, TPC Group vice-president.

Cronin also told Reuters that “At our Port Neches site, we will need significant support for the Emergency Response Team and site recovery resources in 2020. There will also be resource needs to assist the various investigations. Beyond that we will need resources to define our rebuild options and then rebuild the site.”

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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