Fire at Chemical Plant Briefly Shuts Houston Ship Channel

Ineos blast
Houston Dept. of Transportation traffic camera footage of the scene (Houston Transtar)

Published Mar 22, 2023 6:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Wednesday, an explosion and fire at the Ineos chemical plant in Pasadena, Texas briefly forced the closure of the Houston Ship Channel to traffic. 

According to local officials, one person was injured and hospitalized after a fire ignited a "boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion" (BLEVE) at the Ineos Phenol site in Pasadena. An over-the-road tanker truck transporting LPG became overpressurized and exploded, according to officials. 

"When you have a liquid petroleum or a liquid propane inside a tank, the fire that occurred outside can heat the tank to the point that the inside is boiling and the pressure is so great that it overcomes the release mechanisms, the safety valves, and the container holding it explodes," Harris County Fire investigator Mitchell Weston told local ABC 13. 

There was no pollution and no hazard to shipping or to the public, ccording to the Harris County Office of Emergency Management. 

"These incidents continue to happen too often in our community, and that is unacceptable," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the plant has reported 113 violations to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 2019 and has been on the EPA list of “high-priority violators” for the last two quarters.

"These disasters are preventable. We do not have to accept them as the cost of doing business," said Dr. Elena Craft of the Environmental Defense Fund, noting that it has been almost exactly four years since the giant Deer Park fire. "People who live and work near the Houston Ship Channel shouldn’t have to wonder whether today’s the day it’s going to happen again. Today, it happened again."