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Jul 20, 2006

CSB Releases Safety Video with Computer Animation on Formosa Plastics Point Comfort, Texas, Fire and Explosions of October 6, 2005

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DVD of All Eight CSB Safety Videos Available at No Cost - May Be Requested Online at www.csb.gov

New Video Depicts Cause of Massive Propylene Release; Dramatic Footage Shows Subsequent Explosions; Notes Need to Fireproof Structures, Protect Piping, and Install Automated Valves

Washington, DC, July 20, 2006 - The U. S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) today issued a Safety Video on the October 6, 2005, fire and explosions at the Formosa Plastics Corporation, USA, plant in Point Comfort, Texas. The video includes a computer animation depicting events leading to the accident, and features commentary by Lead Investigator Robert Hall, Investigations Manager Stephen Selk, and Board Member John Bresland.

The video, entitled "Fire and Explosions at Formosa Plastics Corp. USA," may be viewed and downloaded at www.CSB.gov. In addition, copies of this video and all previous CSB Safety Videos are available on a DVD which may be ordered, at no charge, by filling out the request form on the website. This is the eighth CSB video in a series.

The Formosa Point Comfort accident occurred in the plant's Olefins II Unit, which converts either natural gas liquids or naphtha into products such as propylene and ethylene. A computer animation in the CSB video shows the initiating cause of the accident as a vehicle - a forklift towing a trailer loaded with cylinders of breathing air used in maintenance - snags a valve, pulling it out of the system. The video shows how this caused the release of a large volume of propylene which then ignited, creating a large fire.

CSB Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt said, "This CSB Safety Video graphically shows how a seemingly minor incident led to a large fire and explosions, and we hope it will receive a wide viewing throughout the chemical industry. The video shows the need for companies to conduct thorough hazard analyses when designing plants and to consider the consequences of potential large-scale releases such as the one at Formosa. As depicted in the Safety Video, companies should consider fireproofing all critical steel structures, install automated valves to shut off chemical releases, and provide employees with flame-retardant clothing if there is a danger of flash fires in the workplace."

The video includes news footage of the spreading fire following the initial explosion as steel structures collapsed, damaging piping and preventing flammable hydrocarbons from being sent to the flare system where they could be safely burned. Video from a company flare system camera dramatically shows subsequent explosions at the Olefins II unit as these vapors ignite.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems, regulations, and industry standards.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.CSB.gov.

For more information, contact Sandy Gilmour, 202-261-7614, cell 202-251-5496, or Dr. Daniel Horowitz, Director of Public Affairs, 202-261-7613, cell 202-441-6074.

 

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