TPC Plant flare-up has neighbors on edge in southeast Houston

Officials: Power outage triggers large flare

Published On: Sep 23 2012 06:20:45 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 23 2012 11:48:37 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

A plant flare-up in southeast Houston has many people in the area concerned for their safety.

The large flare has been burning since early Sunday afternoon. Despite the rolling plumes of smoke that have been released by this flare, emergency crews said there is no danger to the surrounding community.

"Me and my dad saw and at first I thought it was a house burning and I told my dad let's go see maybe we can help or something," said David Morales, an onlooker.

The intense flames from the flare can still be seen from several miles away. Neighbors in the area around the TPC plant off Highway 225 are wondering when it will finally diminish.

"I've never seen the black smoke like I saw this morning," said Freddie Gonzalez, an onlooker.

Early Sunday afternoon a power outage at the plant triggered emergency measures. Plant officials were forced to burn off large amounts of product to avoid a back up in the lines throughout the refinery.

The plant deals with butadiene, which is used to manufacture rubber products as well as lubricants and fuel additives. Plant officials said what's being released into the air is C4 hydrocarbons.

"What concerns me is the health of myself, my child and all the other residents here in the neighborhood," said concerned resident Walter Salinas.

While the incessant clouds of smoke may seem ominous, emergency crews have been monitoring the air all day and said pollution is not a danger to the surrounding area.

The spectacle brought onlookers throughout the day, all trying to figure out what was on fire.

"At first I thought it was a warehouse fire, like a big building, so I was kind of curious because you see the smoke coming all the way over and I was like, 'whoa what's going on," said Daniel Wolfe, onlooker.

As of Sunday night, crews are still trying to restore power to the plant. Until that happens, the flare will continue to burn.

Officials at TPC said they don't yet know what caused a power outage in several parts of the plant and do not have a time frame as to when operations will be back on line.

Officials said until this event is over they will continue working with Harris County Pollution Control and Office of Emergency Management to monitor pollution levels in the area.

No word yet on what caused the power outage that led to the flare up.