CSB Pursues Investigation of 2005 Cylinder Fire at St. Louis Gas Packaging Facility, Finding Four Similar Incidents since 1997

March 30, 2006

Washington, DC, March 30, 2006 - The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) announced that it is carrying forward an investigation of a gas cylinder fire at the Praxair facility in St. Louis on June 24, 2005. The Board expects to issue a safety bulletin based on this incident, focusing on pressure-relief valve standards and good safety practices for gas cylinder handling, storage, and fire protection.

A sequence of fiery explosions swept through the Praxair plant, burning thousands of cylinders containing gases such as acetylene, propane, and propylene, and launching dozens into the surrounding community. Nearby homes, buildings, and cars were struck by cylinders, causing extensive damage and several small fires.

A CSB investigative team went to the site for four days at the time of the incident and then returned to Washington, DC, where investigators performed follow-up research. CSB Lead Investigator Robert Hall said Praxair has cooperated fully with the CSB investigation.

In January, St. Louis Chief Medical Examiner Michael Graham concluded that smoke from the fire contributed to a fatal asthma attack in a 32-year-old St. Louis woman.

"The CSB investigative team has learned of a number of similar fires at gas repackaging facilities that were reported to be caused by leaking propylene containers," Mr. Hall said. "Five gas repackaging facility fires have occurred since 1997, including four within the past three years." In addition to the fire at Praxair St. Louis, fires occurred at another Praxair facility in Fresno, California; Airgas facilities in Sacramento, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma; and an Air Liquide facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Praxair St. Louis facility handled propane, propylene, acetylene, and other gases for repackaging and distribution to industrial and commercial customers. The facility has remained closed since the June 2005 incident.

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:

Public Affairs Specialist Kara Wenzel 202-261-7642, cell 202-577-8448, or Director of Public Affairs Dr. Daniel Horowitz, 202-261-7613, cell 202-441-6074.


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