TPC to rebuild Texas chemical plant shut by explosions, fire: spokeswoman

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Petrochemical maker TPC Group Inc will rebuild the Texas plant shut last week by devastating explosions that ignited fires that burned for six days, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A process tower flies through air after exploding at the TPC Group Petrochemical Plant, after an earlier massive explosion sparked a blaze at the plant in Port Neches, Texas, U.S., November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Erwin Seba/File Photo

The last fire at the Port Neches plant was extinguished late Tuesday after officials decided to let the petrochemicals burn out. The fear of further explosions earlier prompted the county to temporarily evacuate as many as 60,000 people from area homes. They were allowed to return on Friday.

“Our focus has been on mitigating the emergency and we have not assessed the condition of the remaining asset and infrastructure,” said Sara Cronin, a TPC vice president. “At this point, we plan to rebuild the site.”

On Friday, TPC Group Chief Executive Edward Dineen told the 175 employees who work at the Port Neches plant they would be paid until year-end, with the facility shut for an indefinite but extended period.

Cronin said there will be plenty of work to do.

“At our Port Neches site, we will need significant support for the Emergency Response Team and site recovery resources in 2020,” she wrote in response to Reuters’ questions. “There will also be resource needs to assist the various investigations. Beyond that we will need resources to define our rebuild options and then rebuild the site.”

The company carries property and business interruption insurance, Cronin said, and is working with its insurance carriers.

Federal and state investigations began last week and continued on Wednesday.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates major industrial accidents, has scheduled a media briefing on Thursday to discuss its actions.

Neither federal nor state agencies have filed lawsuits against Houston-based TPC. The fire followed several others this year at petrochemical production and storage sites in Texas.

An official with the state’s pollution regulator has said the office plans to review chemical makers’ compliance with state regulations in the wake of the multiple fires.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Tom Brown