At approximately 1:00 p.m. on the 23rd October 1989 Phillips’ 66 chemical complex at Pasadena, near Houston (USA) experienced a chemical release on the polyethylene plant. A flammable vapour cloud formed which subsequently ignited resulting in a massive vapour cloud explosion. Following this initial explosion there was a series of further explosions and fires.
The consequences of the explosions resulted in 23 fatalities and between 130 – 300 people were injured. Extensive damage to the plant facilities occurred.
The day before the incident scheduled maintenance work had begun to clear three of the six settling legs on a reactor. A specialist maintenance contractor was employed to carry out the work. A procedure was in place to isolate the leg to be worked on. During the clearing of No.2 settling leg part of the plug remained lodged in the pipework. A member of the team went to the control room to seek assistance. Shortly afterwards the release occurred. Approximately 2 minutes later the vapour cloud ignited.
- Maintenance Procedures: isolation
- Maintenance Procedures: recommissioning
- Maintenance Procedures: training/competence, management/supervision
- Leak / Gas Detection: positioning of detectors
- Plant Layout: positioning of occupied buildings
- Permit to Work Systems: working in hazardous areas
- Active / Passive Fire Protection: testing and inspection
- Warning Signs: human factors
- Emergency Response / Spill Control: site emergency plan
- Plant Layout: position of occupied buildings
Lees, F.P., ‘Loss Prevention in the Process Industries – Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control’, Volume 3, Appendix 1, Butterworth Heinemann, ISBN 0 7506 1547 8, 1996.