CSB Sets Jan. 25 Business Meeting

The board will review a safety video animation related to the CSB Williams Olefins investigation, which involves an explosion and fire June 13, 2013, at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, La., that killed two employees.

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has set a Jan. 25 public meeting starting at 1 p.m. Eastern in Washington, D.C., to discuss open investigations, the status of audits from the Office of the Inspector General, financial and organizational updates, and to review CSB's action plan. The board will also review a safety video animation related to the CSB Williams Olefins investigation and hear public comments.

A conference call line will be provided for those who cannot attend in person, using this dial-in number to join the conference: 888-466-9863, confirmation Number 5690151#.

The Williams Olefins investigation involves an explosion and fire June 13, 2013, at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, La. It killed two employees. In a final report released in October 2016, the board found that process safety management program deficiencies at the facility during the 12 years leading up to the incident allowed a reboiler, a type of heat exchanger, to be unprotected from overpressure. It ruptured, which caused the explosion.

The plant produces ethylene and propylene for the petrochemical industry and employed approximately 110 people, with about 800 contractors working there at the time of the incident on an expansion project to boost the production of ethylene. According to the report, the incident occurred during non-routine operational activities that introduced heat to the reboiler, which was offline and isolated from its pressure relief device. "The heat increased the temperature of a liquid propane mixture confined within the reboiler, resulting in a dramatic pressure rise within the vessel. The reboiler shell catastrophically ruptured, causing a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) and fire, which killed two workers; 167 others reported injuries, the majority of which were contractors," the board reported.

CSB cited deficiencies in implementing Management of Change, Pre-Startup Safety Review (PSSR), Process Hazard Analysis programs, and procedure programs:

  • Failure to appropriately manage or effectively review two significant changes that introduced new hazards involving the reboiler that ruptured: 1) the installation of block valves that could isolate the reboiler from its protective pressure relief device and 2) the administrative controls Williams relied on to control the position (open or closed) of these block valves
  • Failure to effectively complete a key hazard analysis recommendation intended to protect the reboiler that ultimately ruptured
  • Failure to perform a hazard analysis and develop a procedure for the operations activities conducted on the day of the incident that could have addressed overpressure protection

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