Arkema Texas Plant Explodes, "Black Smoke Fills The Air"

Tyler Durden's picture

You can't say they didn't warn us: this afternoon, the VP of US manufacturing Daryl Roberts at French chemicals giant Arkema, said the company was on "high alert" as more fires could start at the doomed facility at any moment. Well, that moment took place around 6pm ET, when ABC Houston reported that the doomed Arkema plant has exploded, causing a "massive" fire and "sending dark, black smoke into the air."

According to reports on the ground, light winds are not pushing into areas around the plant, but there is concern the smoke could injure others.

The smoke could be seen in the residential Newport area of Crosby, about 7 miles away. Harris County officials are advising residents who did not evacuate the 1.5-mile area around the plant to close their windows and turn off their air conditioning systems.

"You could call this a warning sign that more explosions or fires could
be coming soon," Jeff Carr, a spokesman for Arkema, told the Houston

Hazardous materials crews are headed to the scene.

Rachel Moreno at the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said that the explosion was a result of the product inside the trailers reaching its combustion state, which is causing the black smoke. She said that residents should be safe if they adhere to the one-and-a-half mile evacuation zone, and advised those who are near the site to shelter in place, close all their windows and turn off their air conditioning.

Moreno said no change was made to the evacuation zone.

This is the second of nine trailers at the plant that has caught fire. The trailers each contain liquid organic peroxides, which needs to be cooled to a certain temperature, otherwise it will explode. Officials said that three of the nine trailers have lost power, according to KPRC.

At least 18 people have been injured since the first fire earlier in the week. One of the injured complained of a burning sensation in the eyes and throat and was still feeling the effects, days later.

As reported this afternoon, the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office has ordered residents within a one-and-a-half mile radius to evacuate the area. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Arkema President and CEO Rich Rowe said he fully expects the remaining trailers to catch fire, adding the best course of action would be to let the trailers “burn out.”

“The only recourse is to let the eight containers burn out," Rowe said, according to ABC News. "It’s 500,000 pounds of material; let that material burn out."

As reported previously, plant officials said they expected the explosion and fire as chemicals began to heat up after the plant lost power during this week's flood. There are nine containers with 500,000 pounds of material inside. One of the containers already burned.

Earlier this week, officials evacuated workers and residents within a 1.5-mile radius from the plant after flooding which the company says could lead to a massive fire or explosion. On Thursday morning, members of the media were not let within a 2-mile perimeter of the plant as authorities investigated the incident, while nearby residents were briefly advised to shelter-in-place.

The plant makes organic peroxides, some that need to be constantly refrigerated. When they aren't, they become volatile.

Friday's fire was the second fire and explosion after a much smaller one erupted Monday.

The plant's record with state and federal regulators isn't stellar either, something the plant's president acknowledged in a phone conference Friday. "We're not perfect," said Arkema CEO Richard Rennard. "We're doing our very best and and will continue to work to get better."

While the company has refused to give the full breakdown of chemicals stored on location, it has warned that it has around 500,000 pounds of peroxides on the site, all of which are expected to burn.

The company also published a list of the toxic chemicals stored at the doomed facility on its web site, reposted below.

  • AROMATIC 100

All of these substances are now expected to burn down, many in volatile, explosive fashion, in the coming days.

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gatorengineer's picture

Is black smoke racist

junction's picture

End Times, brought to you by your friends at the New World Order.

TeamDepends's picture

The time has come.  To kill 'em all.

max2205's picture

Blonde's world wide are nervous 

Swampster's picture

Busch new an daid nuffinz!

Lore's picture

Interesting that the area seems dry, with no visible flooding whatsoever.  Must be on high ground, so why the fire?

sincerely_yours's picture

I wonder if they got the IsraHelli team that did 9/11 to do the job: "pull it!"

idea_hamster's picture

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Thank goodness Texas got rid of all those regulations that would let first responders know what they’re breathing in because fuck the firemen somebody has to pay my Netjets tab.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Better life through Chemistry..... hah!

Should have stuck with the Alchemists, the Astrologers and the Traditional healers eh?

This is more run-away reactions in our over-reach into technology. If you cannot control the edges, you have no business running the "safe" zone...

Déjà view's picture


Prevailing SE winds always push Buenos Aires towards Woodlands, Kingwood, Tomball, Conroe and on towards Austin, C-S and Dallas...

I am a Man I am Forty's picture

you sound like your from there throwing those names around

robertsgt40's picture

Yeah, that's the ticket.  Just let it bur. It's probably just harmless smoke, like the burn pits in Iraq. 

Benjamin123's picture

Gotta play it 100% safe, eh? Cause otherwise we could, like, die?

7thGenMO's picture

Interesting link!  When I look at photos of what my great-grandfather was capable of building without the use of modern power tools, I am amazed.  Yes, there is far too much faith placed in the Technology as God.

azusgm's picture

Yep. That qualifies as an explosion.


Stuck on Zero's picture

That's not the Arkema chemical plant dudes. That's Texas Pete's Hot Sauce plant:


virgule's picture

There is something odd in this story - the plant was supposedly under several ft of water less than 2 days ago. Now the photos show dry ground with clean vehicles and clean plant - it should look like waste land.

Also, while it's a bit difficult to raise a nuclear plant by a few ft, where is the difficulty in raising 9 containers and gensets on concrete blocks eg 5 ft high, when you know you are exposed to major disaster in case of flooding, in a hurricane prone region? What kind of risk analysis has been done at that plant? What kind of preparations for the annual hurricane season?

I'm starting to think they were deliveratly letting it blow up to clain insurance.

virgule's picture

Well, I read French fluently. The article says the plant is under 2m of water, and was hit by an unforeseable "black swan event", even quoting Nassim Taleb in the same breath. What a joke.

What I see on that photo is half the plant under water (no where near 2m), and the other half completely dry. So if the gensets were flooded, it means they were located on the low ground, while there is high ground available nearby, which the water did not reach (looking at the clean areas in the photos). In hurricane country. While storing highly explosive chemicals very sensitive to proper cooling. And the management knew this risk, since they determined it would blow up way before it happened.

And I'm the moron?

Oliver Jones's picture

You know, it's funny, but the insurance claim was the first thing that came to my mind, too.

Perhaps I'm getting overly cynical in my old age. :)

Dorado's picture

500,000lbs of chemicals is why.

Taint Boil's picture

Yeah thought the same thing ... the contrast between the grass and roads are too "crisp" the grass and roads should be all muddy and hard to distinguish between each other. Where did all the water go? Some how chemicals stored in containers are just going to explode because they can't get to it?? Just drive up and connect temp power ... looking at the picture you could just drive up to the "containers"  ... I guess that is where you store highly explosive materials.

If the material is that dangerous you would have multiple back ups, multiple built in redundancy, etc., etc. something does seem odd.


Adahy's picture

Nono, if you want to see an industrial disaster done 'right', you gotta' go to China:

Sugarcandy Mountain's picture

Now, now. Let's see how fast all the buildings in the complex collapse into their own footprint at freefall speed before apportioning any blame. ;-)

s2man's picture

photos showed it under water a few days ago.  Power and backup generators are out.   I don't think I would want to go in there and try to restore power to the cooling systems...

secretargentman's picture

Who says "I've got an idea... Let's make a chemical that explodes if you don't refrigerate it".  

Moe Hamhead's picture

Must be a GE design.  Hey look, there's a low spot, let's put the back-up generator there.

Just like Fukishima!

Not Too Important's picture

Shit's about to get real.

Tonight the flooding at the South Texas Project Nuclear Power Plant (2 NPP's) is expected to reach 50+ feet. The facility is only rated to 41 feet for flooding (and is high on the NRC shit list for a poorly run/designed NPP to begin with). They are facing over 9 feet of water pouring into every orifice over that 41 foot safety line.

I seriously doubt the generators are anywhere near being dry, and even if, won't survive tonight's flooding if it gets that high. No power to the pumps, Fukushima 2.0 all over again. The radioactive hydrogen gas will build up faster than they can vent, and it will explode, taking the core with it. A week of no cooling water circulation to the Spent Fuel Pools and they will steam off the water and spontaneously catch fire. There's no putting that fire out.

As they say, 'There's no athiests in a foxhole'. Whether you're religious or not, you'd better pray that water doesn't destroy that nuclear facility, otherwise the entire southern US will become a nuclear wasteland.


Speaking of...

I saw my first US radiation baby yesterday. If you don't know what that means, do a search for Chernobyl babies or depleted uranium babies. We're going to see a hell of a lot more, thanks to GE and Japan.

MK13's picture

Except US reactor design shuts down with help of gravity - unlike Russian ones. And US nuc boys did have 5 day head start of getting reactor cooled before any water breach, unlike Japanese Fuk up boys. My thought is - if something bad does happen at nuc plant in SE Texas, no one should build any - I seriously doubt any funny radioactive stuff will happen.

Not Too Important's picture

They've been running both reactors at 100% through the entire time Harvey has been pounding the area. Probably to keep the power to all the referigeration needed for all the high-volatility chemical storage across Houston:

'WARNING: “Credible threat of severe accident at two nuclear reactors” due to Hurricane Harvey — “Clear potential for major disaster” — Plant “could be overwhelmed by raging flood waters” — Officials refuse to provide public with information'

It takes 30 hours to properly shut down the two NPP's at STP. If they lose all power, off it goes.

It doesn't matter if they build any more. Every single one is going to fall apart to atmosphere, the radiation has been destroying the NPP containment since they were first lit off. 20-30+ years later, and it's just a matter of time/weather/war.

Fukushima released - and is still releasing - millions of nuclear weapons worth of radiation. The US cannot survive that in Houston. Well, North America can't survive any of it for more than another 8 years or so...

Mr 9x19's picture

keep calm, drink beer and eat doritos

MK13's picture

Failed nuclear doom porn. South Texas NPP is fine.

By the way, did you know you are exposed to 1 mrad of radiation a day or more? Did you know that nuclear energy workers exposed to doses twice that actually lived longer? Shh, don't tell anyone, it might scare them.

J Jason Djfmam's picture

How many spent fuel rods are stored there waiting to melt and meet up with Fuku's melted core somewhere in Middle Earth?

OverTheHedge's picture

It's ok! There is no statistical connection between atomic weapons and child birth defects:

Or there were no atomic weapons dropped on Japan......? Who knew?

New_Meat's picture

Why that would be most any Redneck.

"Hey!  All y'all, lookee here!!!  Watch this!!!"

hxc's picture

Flooding was worse before from pics i saw. And both the main generator and primary generators for the refridgeration failed which are needed to keep that shit stable.

Ray Bones's picture

That's what it looked like to me, too.

Not Too Important's picture

Anyone have a list of all the chemical plants in Houston that have on-site volatile/lethal chemical storage that requires refrigeration?

No, of course not, there's no requirement to publish that information. And how many chemical plants don't have power? Bueller?

J Jason Djfmam's picture

Why didn't they keep all of this stuff in New Jersey where it belongs?

iampreparedru's picture

Yea hire more bureaucrats with fat retirement plans to create more forms and penalties so thy can map these on a pretty map for more drama rv.

Plan 6 worked. Store in manageable burn piles.

Mustafa Kemal's picture

Yeah, I thought they had flooding

Nobody For President's picture

4-5 days ago, there were pictures, including right here on ZH of the plant with 4 foot plus of water around and in it.

Also interesting:

Best videos from RT?

Ms No's picture

The fuel tank looks like it has a water line between the tank seams there too.  We aren't seeing this portion of the plant in the new pictures.

assistedliving's picture

While the company has refused to give the full breakdown of chemicals stored on location...

and you want me to go in there and put out that fire?

Non merci (that's French for Go fuck yourself you French m/f'ers)

iampreparedru's picture

Was close to here today. Water was up 40-50' over normal. Looks dry and green today. Contingency plan 6 worked. Isolate into manageable burn units. Serious but mostly drama tv.