Fire at ExxonMobil Baytown plant extinguished, air monitoring continues

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Crews battling fire at ExxonMobil Baytown plant on July 31, 2019.

The fire that began at the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant on Wednesday has been extinguished, the company said on Thursday.

ExxonMobil says the impacted unit has been shut down and stabilized, and an investigation is underway into the cause of the fire. The rest of the complex, including the refinery, are operating at reduced rates, the company says.

ExxonMobil says air monitoring continues in the area outside of the complex, and levels are currently normal.

ExxonMobil has accounted for all of their staff and employees. Officials say 66 worker and contractors were examined at an occupation health clinic, and some of them received first aid treatments. Exxon says all workers who received medical evaluation or first aid have been cleared to return to work.

The fire was reported at the Baytown plant around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

A precautionary shelter in place was issued for areas west of the plant and south of 330, but it was lifted around 3 p.m. Wednesday. The area included several Goose Creek ISD facilities: GC Service Center, Robert E. Lee High School, Peter E. Hyland, IMPACT ECHS, San Jacinto Elementary, Travis Elementary and Baytown Junior.

SHELTER IN PLACE: What to do if you're in the impacted area

Shelter-in-place means to stay indoors, keep doors and windows closed, and turn off the air conditioning. Click here for more info on what to do.

The fire was seen going straight up in the air, and could be seen for miles.

The unit affected processes light hydrocarbons including propane and propylene. Polypropylene is a thermoplastic used in a wide variety of products. It is commonly used to make reusable food containers or beverage bottle caps. It is not a carcinogen.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jason Duncan from ExxonMobil said that there was no adverse impact to the environment.

ExxonMobil released the following statement on Thursday:

The fire that started July 31 at the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant has been extinguished.

All workers who received medical evaluation or first aid have been cleared to return to work.

We deeply regret any disruption or inconvenience that this incident may have caused the community. 

The rest of the Baytown complex, including the refinery, are operating at reduced rates. The impacted unit has been shut down and stabilized. An investigation is under way into the cause of the fire, which burned propane and propylene.

Our first priority is the safety of people in the community and in our facilities. Air monitoring continues in the area immediately outside of the complex and levels are normal. 

We are cooperating with regulatory agencies and are working closely with community officials and other stakeholders to provide information and assistance, as required.

We take public health and environmental protection seriously. We will continue to work to identify ways to enhance our environmental performance.

Since 2005, ExxonMobil has spent nearly $1 billion on the Baytown complex to improve environmental performance. We have reduced total emissions by more than 29 percent and improved our air incident performance, including those that contribute to hydrocarbon flaring, by 76 percent.

On Thursday, Harris County filed a lawsuit alleging that ExxonMobil Chemical Company "caused, suffered, allowed or permitted air emissions in Harris County in violation of the Texas Clean Air Act."