Williams links deadly Louisiana olefins explosion to propylene fractionator area

Williams has begun its initial damage assessment into the deadly exploson and fire at its Geismar olefins plant in Louisiana, saying the explosion originated in the propylene fractionator area.

In a news release issued Wednesday, the company said it has key personnel at the site to begin developing plans to make repairs, undertake a previously-planned plant maintenance turnaround and complete a 600 million lb/year expansion of the olefins operations.

The plant remains shut down and the expansion work that was occurring is temporarily suspended. Neither the full extent of the damage nor the time needed to make repairs is known.

Williams did confirm, however, that the June 13 incident caused serious damage to the piping, heat exchangers and reboilers in the area just adjacent to the propylene fractionator. Those items will likely need to be replaced.

Elsewhere, sections of the electrical cable trays in the elevated portions of a pipe rack adjacent to the propylene fractionator tower sustained enough damage such that significant amounts of the electrical power cable and control wiring in the plant will need to be replaced.

In addition, a 50-foot section of the plant pipe rack containing portions of the plant steam system, pipeline ethane feed vaporization systems, and fuel-gas conditioning equipment sustained damage that will require the replacement of support structures and significant amounts of piping.

Other equipment will be evaluated when the company has access to the incident area. 

Williams noted that it is cooperating with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) on their investigations into the cause of the incident.

"While the investigation and plans for repairs are underway, the company has been and remains focused on employees, contract workers and families personally affected by the event," the company said in a statement.

"At this time, there are no Williams employees hospitalized; one contract worker remains in the hospital."

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