PHOTO: Texas Tribune
On Friday, May 5th, a massive chemical fire erupted in an explosion at the Shell Deer Park chemical plant in Deer Park, TX. The incident occurred after a series of self-reported complex malfunctions within the facility, like tripped compressors, pressure loss, and freezing weather.
What To Know About Shell Deer Park
- Shell Deer Park is a 1500-acre complex located in Deer Park, TX, approximately 20 miles east of downtown Houston along the Houston Ship Channel. It operates 24 hours a day.
- It was the first manufacturer established in Deer Park in 1929.
- The complex produces base chemicals and raw materials, including light olefins, heavy olefins, and phenol.
Timeline of Events
- The fire initially ignited in the afternoon of Friday, May 5th, in an explosion in an olefins unit, used to make plastics and rubber, because of heat exchange between two heavy gas oils.
- 9 contract employees were evaluated at the hospital for possible chemical exposure and burn injuries. All have since been released.
- The fire was extinguished for a few hours on Saturday morning before it reignited around 3PM, according to Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith.
- Officials reported that the flames were finally extinguished the following Sunday, after more than 50 hours of fighting the flames.
- Water runoff from the firefighting efforts exceeded the chemical plant’s wastewater capacity and was diverted into the Houston Ship Channel. As much as 11,000 gallons per minute went into the water during the fire.
DEER PARK FACILITY FIRE | Video just sent to our newsroom shows the plume of smoke getting thinner at the Shell Deer Park facility.— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) May 5, 2023
We still don't know what caused the fire but officials said there is no threat to the community.
LATEST UPDATES: https://t.co/tB16lUufLW pic.twitter.com/9Sp0wtiM93
Just arrived at petrochemical plant fire. This is the Shell Deer Park Complex off 225 just east of Beltway 8. Numerous workers watching from parking lot, across feeder #khou11 @KHOU https://t.co/LZn6KFCPUT pic.twitter.com/992vktrGKR— Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) May 5, 2023
Since the start of 2022, Shell reported at least four malfunctions at one of the units in its Deer Park refinery that resulted in thousands of pounds of unauthorized pollution. No fines or citations were issued by regulators.— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) May 10, 2023
via @insideclimate https://t.co/ta0ozRa4eS
Days after a massive fire erupted at the Shell Chemical Plant in Deer Park, business owners in the seafood industry are very concerned about the wastewater runoff that Shell has been funneling into the Houston Ship Channel. https://t.co/UKKT6bSU1z— KPRC 2 Houston (@KPRC2) May 10, 2023
History Of Malfunctions At The Shell Deer Park Complex
Over the past year, the Shell Deer Park chemical plant has experienced four separate malfunctions in one of its olefins units. Surprisingly, despite these incidents, Texas regulators have yet to hold the company accountable for these issues. In each case, Shell has utilized the “affirmative defense,” a legal provision under Texas law that excuses industrial operators from liability for pollution events that are reported as accidents or emergencies.
While this defense may absolve companies of responsibility for certain incidents, critics argue that it may also encourage them to neglect maintenance and equipment upgrades, leading to dangerous malfunctions that put workers and surrounding neighborhoods and businesses in harms way. The recent fire at the plant has once again raised concerns about the effectiveness of Texas regulations and the impact of corporate interests on public safety.
The Houston Area Is A Hotspot For Petrochemical Accidents
The fire is the most recent petrochemical-related accident in the Houston area. At least a dozen similar explosions have occurred within the last 5 years:
- INEOS Chemical Plant Explosion – March 2023
- ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery Explosion – December 2021
- TPC Houston Chemical Plant Explosion – November 2019
- Celanese Corporation Pasadena Plant Explosion – September 2019
- ExxonMobil Baytown Plant Explosion – July 2019
- Kuraray America Eval Texas Chemical Plant Explosion – May 2019
- KMCO Crosby Chemical Plant Explosion – April 2019
- ITC Deer Park Plant Explosion – March 2019
- ExxonMobil Baytown Complex Plan Explosion – March 2019
- Cresson Chemical Plant Explosion – March 2018
- Arkema Chemical Plant Explosion – August 2017
Our Petrochemical Fire and Explosion Lawyers Can Help
If the recent Shell Chemical Plant fire has impacted you or your business, you deserve to receive compensation for your losses. Our Houston petrochemical fire and explosion lawyers have extensive experience handling cases related to industrial accidents and can help you understand your legal options. With our guidance, you can focus on recovering from the incident while we work to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free initial consultation to learn more about how we can help.