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Arkema plant critical after fridge failure

USA: An organic peroxides plant in Crosby, Texas, is in danger of exploding after vital refrigeration equipment was flooded by Hurricane Harvey.

Organic peroxides are used in everything from making pharmaceuticals to construction materials. Low-temperature organic peroxides are flammable liquids that naturally degrade and can become unstable unless refrigerated.

Following Hurricane Harvey, a number of failsafe refrigeration systems have been knocked out by unprecedented flooding at the plant that is now under six foot of water. All residents within a 1.5 mile radius of the Crosby plant have been evacuated. The site itself is now completely flooded and inaccessible except by boat.

In a statement, Arkema president & CEO Rich Rowe explained: “We have lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire. The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it.”

Arkema’s own on-site safety crew has also been evacuated for its own safety.

Arkema claims to have made extensive preparations prior to Hurricane Harvey. The plant operates with backup generators as a redundant power supply for the refrigeration necessary for the safe storage of products. Additional diesel-powered refrigerated tank trailers and additional fuel as a further redundancy were brought in in anticipation of the storm. Employees are said to have safely shut down all operations on Friday (August 25) prior to the hurricane’s landfall.   

“We left a small “ride-out” crew on site to address situations that could arise at the site during the storm to protect the safety and security of the community,” said Rich Rowe.

The site lost primary power early on Sunday morning and the additional back-up generators were subsequently inundated by water and failed. On Monday, temperature sensitive products were transferred into eight diesel-powered refrigerated containers. Most of these refrigeration units have now failed due to the flooding.   

“It will take time for the low-temperature product to degrade, ignite, burn, and disperse,” said Rich Rowe. “Unfortunately, until the water recedes, Arkema and governmental authorities have concluded that there are no further actions at the site that can be taken safely. The most likely outcome is that, anytime between now and the next few days, the low-temperature peroxide in unrefrigerated trailers will degrade and catch fire.”

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