DEER PARK, Texas – Authorities say nine people were taken to the hospital after a massive fire in Deer Park at a Shell Chemical Plant that continued to burn Friday.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said five people were transported for precautionary measures, mainly due to the heat. According to Scott Spiegel, spokesperson for Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, three others took themselves to the hospital. Shell tweeted a total of nine contractors were evaluated at the hospital, but have since been released.
All site personnel have been accounted for, including 9 contractors who were released after undergoing precautionary medical evaluations. Air monitoring is ongoing, and has not detected any harmful levels of chemicals. There is no danger to the nearby community. (2/3)— Shell Deer Park Chemicals (@ShellDeerPark) May 6, 2023
Additionally, Gonzalez said the fire started because of a heat exchange between two heavy gas oils.
Update: I’m at the scene. Preliminary info: No off-site impact. There was no explosion, it was a fire. A heat exchange between two heavy gas oils. Fire is diminishing and contained. The product is being depressurized. Visible flares are there to relieve pressure. 5 contractors https://t.co/LUvxW3Xl3i— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) May 5, 2023
Around 5:40 p.m., Gonzalez said the fire is being diminished and had been contained.
The burning product is also being depressurized.
The location of the plant is in the block of 5900 Highway 225 near Center Street.
It is still unclear exactly what chemical is currently burning off, however, smoke was seen billowing from a distance by SKY 2 cameras.
Small flares and dark smoke plumes were seen across the plant for hours after the explosion.
An Environmental Duty Representative sent the team at Community Awareness Emergency Response (CAER) system the following statement to be released:
“This is the Environmental Duty Representative at Shell Deer Park. We are currently experiencing fire within one of our units. The incident is being handled within the boundaries of this facility and there is no threat to the community form this incident. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Shell officials stated that a Shelter in Place was not issued for the city of Deer Park Friday afternoon.
Update: At this time, Shell Deer Park is advising that a Shelter-In-Place is not neccesary, at this time. At information arises, we will provide updates to social media accounts and the City of Deer Park website at https://t.co/Er39XT2Z0a pic.twitter.com/IgDVik0znu— DeerParkOEM (@deerparkoem) May 5, 2023
Harris County Fire Marshal and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are responding.
Receiving preliminary reports of some type of explosion at an industrial plant at 5900 SH-225. Responding units can see fire from the freeway. @hcfmo & @HCSOTexas industrial team have begun coordinating. #HouNews— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) May 5, 2023
Deer Park ISD officials say a Shelter in Place was not issued because the wind is blowing away from campuses.
School dismissal took place Friday afternoon according to the regular schedule.
The Shell Chemical Plant has been in the city of Deer Park since 1929.
The site operates 24 hours a day and is a combination of processing equipment, control rooms, storage tanks, environmental protection equipment, office buildings, shops, and warehouses.
Key chemical plant business categories include:
- Light Olefins – ethylene, propylene and butylenes for plastics, pharmaceuticals, insecticides, antifreeze, detergents, etc
- Heavy Olefins – isoprene, butadiene and piperylene for latex paints, adhesives, tapes, wire coating, synthetic rubbers, ink, etc.
- Phenol – phenol and acetone for plastics, wood preservatives, dyes, antiseptic products, agricultural chemicals and other products.