Fire breaks out at Shell chemical plant, burns for three days
09 May 2023
A fire broke out in the olefins unit of Shell’s Deer Park Chemicals Facility in Texas, US on 5 May. The blaze was extinguished on 6 May but later reignited and burned for a third day before firefighters were able to extinguish it again on 7 May. No injuries were reported, however Shell said some contractors underwent a medical evaluation as a precaution.
Representative image: Shutterstock
In a series of statements, Shell said the initial fire broke out at 14:56 local time while the olefins unit was undergoing routine maintenance. Emergency responders arrived at the scene and immediately began attempts to put out the fire. All site personnel were accounted for, including nine contractors who were released after being exposed to some product and undergoing precautionary medical evaluations.
Footage of the scene showed a plume of dark smoke rising from the plant. Shell said air monitoring was carried out throughout the incident which did not detect any harmful levels of chemicals.
On 6 May, the oil major announced that the fire had been extinguished and that the area was continuing to be monitored for hot spots that could reignite. However, at approximately 15:14, the remaining product reignited.
As a result of the large amount of water required to control the fire, wastewater storage capacity was exceeded and runoff water was directed to the Houston Ship Channel as part of a controlled discharge. As a precaution, a boom was deployed to prevent any product from entering the channel.
The re-ignited fire was contained to a controlled zone and later extinguished in the event of 7 May. Air monitoring continued and Shell said emergency services would continue to be on standby should it re-ignite again.
The energy major said its immediate priorities remain the safety of people and the environment and that the cause of the fire will be the subject of a future investigation.