Fire injures 14 at Formosa's Point Comfort, TX site

08:11 AM | May 3, 2013 | Francinia Protti-Alvarez and Robert Westervelt

A fire at an ethylene purification unit at Formosa Plastics’ complex at Point Comfort, TX yesterday injured 14 people. Eight of the injured had been treated and released as of Friday morning, according to a company spokesperson. 

The fire occurred in an ethylene purification area near the site’s “PE1” high-density polyethylene (HDPE) production unit. The HDPE unit has been shut down and a restart date has not been announced, the spokesperson adds. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

The spokesperson says that production continues at the site’s other operations, which include a cracker, chlor-alkali, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, and second PE unit. 

The company says that there does not appear to be major damage to the affected PE production unit. “At this time there is sufficient product inventory to fill immediate normal and customary orders,” Ken Mounger, v.p. and general manager of Formosa Plastics’ polyolefins division said in a letter to customers. “The extent of our ability to supply product long term will depend on the results of the investigation and a full assessment of the equipment.”

Formosa's Point Comfort site comprises a steam cracker with capacity for 1.49 million m.t./year of ethylene and 823,000 m.t./year of propylene, as well as plants with capacity for 750,000 m.t./year of high-density polyethylene; 835,000 m.t./year of polypropylene; and 843,000 m.t./year of polyvinyl chloride, among other products, according to IHS Chemical data.