A transfer line apparently ignited and caused a fire in a tank containing isobutylene at the KMCO LLC specialty chemicals company near Houston Tuesday, killing one person and injuring two others, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department said.
An adjacent storage building with solid goods also caught fire at the facility in Crosby, which is about half an hour from Houston, said Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. KMCO, which among other things makes chemicals for the oilfield services industry, activated its incident command center and dispatched an emergency response team to help first responders extinguish the fire, CEO John C. Foley said. He took over in 2016.
"We are deeply saddened to confirm at this time that there have been injuries and one fatality," Foley said. "Those injured have been transported for medical treatment. Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals involved, as well as our first responders, employees and our community."
The specialty chemical manufacturing and toll processing services facility sits on about 200 acres and has eight distillation columns, 23 reactor systems and capacity for 250 rail cars, according to the company. The site has batch and continuous distillation and multiple reaction capabilities able to produce more than 900 million pounds/year of toll manufacturing products.
KMCO is owned by private equity firm Org Chemical Holdings based in Austin, TX, and it has facilities in Crosby and Port Arthur, about an hour east of Crosby.
The Sheriff’s Department confirmed one fatality and said two people were taken by helicopter to an area hospital. The Harris County Office of Emergency Management said the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Pollution Control Services Department were on the scene, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was assessing the incident.
The shelter-in-place was ordered briefly for all residents within one mile of the plant. All schools in Crosby, Channelview, Galena Park and Sheldon were under the order.
At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday the Sheriff’s Department reported that pollutants in the air and ground were being monitored but no “actionable” levels were detected.
The incident came about three weeks after a tank farm at a petrochemical holding facility near Deer Park east of Houston also caught fire. A cause for the incident at Intercontinental Terminals Co. LLC, where 11 tanks caught fire, has not been announced. That fire also led to a shelter-in-place.