Updated May 8, 2023 - News

Fire at Deer Park chemical plant east of Houston

Photo: Courtesy of Patrick Storm

A fire at Shell Deer Park chemical plant was extinguished Sunday night after blazing through the weekend.

Catch up quick: The fire was reported just before 3pm Friday in the 5900 block of Texas 225.

The latest: The fire was reportedly extinguished on Saturday morning, Shell said, but was then reignited later that day and burned through most of Sunday, per Shell's tweets.

  • Shell warned residents of black smoke and increased noises from the facility on Sunday.
  • Wastewater storage capacity has been exceeded from the water used to contain the fire, so runoff water was being pumped to the Houston Ship Channel. The company said it would utilize precautionary measures to prevent any product from contaminating the channel water.

What they're saying: "There's no threats to the community or anything," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said at a press conference Friday.

  • The fire potentially started as a result of a chemical leak, according to Harris County Fire Marshal's Office Capt. J. Singleton, who spoke at the press conference.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality performed air quality tests on Friday and Saturday but did not report any harmful levels of chemicals in the air.

Of note: There was no shelter-in-place order.

Dig deeper: The plant develops light olefins, heavy olefins and phenol, according to its website.

  • Those chemicals are used for a variety of products, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, insecticides, antifreeze, detergents, adhesives and more.
  • The fire started while the olefins unit was undergoing routine maintenance, igniting cracked heavy gas oil, cracked light gas oil and gasoline. The cause of the fire will be under investigation, per Shell.

Also: The plant was fined in 2020 for serious safety violations, first reported by Houston Public Media. The facility also was fined nearly $400,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency in the last half-decade.

What we're watching: Singleton said the Fire Marshal's Office will continue the investigation over the weekend.


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