Federal investigators were attempting to determine on Wednesday the cause of a series of explosions Tuesday at the Mont Belvieu, TX, natural gas liquids (NGL) processing plant owned and operated by Enterprise Products Partners LP (see Daily GPI, Feb. 9).

The fire's fuel sources were extinguished overnight but Chambers County firefighters continued to battle hot spots on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Mont Belvieu Police Department. The search also was said to be continuing for a contract employee reported missing after the blast. The Houston Chronicle identified the missing man as Rick Shaw of Baytown, TX.

According to a Mont Belvieu police official, a series of explosions just after noon Tuesday resulted in a huge fire that quickly spread to nearby vehicles and equipment. The cause was unknown, but a hissing sound was reported before the blast, the official told NGI.

The fire erupted at the facility's western NGL storage terminal, Enterprise reported. The main operating equipment was not damaged and remained operational, including NGL fractionators, propylene fractionators, butane isomerization units, an octane enhancement facility, the north and east facilities, and the import/export terminals on the Houston Ship Channel.

Enterprise officials, in addition to investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, were at the site. The Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also said it is working with state officials "in determining next steps."

Several nearby chemical and processing facilities reduced or shuttered services after the explosion but no major impacts to services were reported.

Targa Resources Partners LP said its Mont Belvieu assets weren't "physically affected or damaged" by the fire. The partnership "followed strict safety and other operating procedures during the fire and did not make delivery changes to its petrochemical customers until certain safety thresholds were met."

Targa's operated assets continued to make deliveries to its customers, and it took additional raw NGL supplies (y-grade) into underground storage "from various NGL pipelines that had been feeding other area fractionators that prudently shutdown due to their physical proximity to the fire."

Targa's majority-owned and operated Cedar Bayou Fractionator "ran throughout the day" Tuesday and "continues to run." Gulf Coast Fractionators, in which it holds a 38.8% stake, shut down but was expected to restart late on Wednesday "assuming no unforeseen safety or operational issues are identified in the interim." Targa also "worked closely with other industry participants on the emergency response and is now working with customers to try to meet their new requirements caused by temporary logistics disruptions."

ONEOK Partners LP, which operates a facility in Mont Belvieu, said it temporarily shuttered its 160,000 b/d fractionator, MB-1, as "a precautionary measure." In addition, LyondellBasell Industries reduced operations at two chemical plants in nearby La Porte and Channelview, TX.

In a note to clients Credit Suisse analysts said the fire should have a minimal impact on Enterprise's operations. "The incident seems contained and is unlikely to have a major long-term impact," the analysts said.

On the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday Enterprise closed 4 cents higher to end the day at $42.69/share.

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