December 21st, 2023
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Sometime before 8 a.m. on Wednesday, November 8th, a chemical fire and subsequent explosion occurred at an industrial chemical recycling and repackaging plant in Shepherd, Texas. Citizens from all around the area posted videos capturing an ominous plume of black smoke erupting from the scene. The cloud of smoke began to subside after first responders gained control of the blaze around 1 p.m. that day.
The plant, owned and operated by Sound Resource Solutions, is 60 miles northeast of Houston Texas. The company specializes in blending, distributing, and storing industrial chemical products in bulk, totes, or 55-gallon drums. Several of the chemical products produced at this location pose a fire hazard, including diesel and turpentine. Pole County Office of Emergency Management said in a statement that one of the solvents produced in the factory is used to make glue and paint remover. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said that air monitoring continues and that no chemicals have been detected so far.
The exact cause of the initial blaze remains under investigation. Initial reports from a preliminary investigation presume the explosion happened when an employee noticed a container leaking with chemicals and tried to use a forklift to lift the container, after which there was ignition. “We have preliminary investigations done on what initially happened, but we want to verify everything,” said Geoff Harfield, president of Sound Resource Solutions. The San Jacinto County Office of Emergency Management posted an update that a private hazmat crew is on the scene securing an alcohol leak from a tanker trailer.
Using and handling flammable liquids presents some unique and difficult fire protection challenges. Depending on the specific material, there is the possibility of generating vapors that can easily ignite – or explode.
Storage tanks for flammable liquids should be located safely from buildings and each other. Containment should also be provided for tanks with flammable liquids. Containment provisions will vary based on how much liquid and how many tanks are present. Outdoor containment areas, such as in this incident, should be provided with an impounding basin at a safe location to remove rainwater and such from the containment area. Factors such as viscosity, the percent of flammable components within the liquid, water miscibility, material of the container, specific gravity (liquid will float on water or water floats on the liquid), the size of the container, etc. also play a role into how flammable and combustible liquids should be protected.
Risk Logic, Inc. can help you determine your protection needs for the storage, use, and handling of flammable and combustible liquids at your facility.