November 11, 2002
BASF Freeport Explosion Update

[Updates below.]

It's been almost two months since I last talked about the BASF explosion in Freeport, TX near Houston. A reader commented and reignited my interest, so I decided to see what I could find out about this awfully news-deficient story.

Starting off with a refresher from September 14th:

A rail car explosion Friday morning at the BASF chemical plant in Freeport rattled Brazoria County and injured six employees.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, BASF spokesperson Sharon Rogers said two BASF employees and four contractors were treated for minor injuries either on-site or at a local doctor’s office and later released.

Rogers said the explosion occurred at about 9:30 a.m. and was caused by a complication while the car was being off loaded.

“The tank car being off loaded became over pressurized and that’s when the [ammonia] release began,” she said. “As it got hotter and hotter, there was an evacuation of the immediate area.” Shortly after, the explosion occurred, she said. Rogers said the cause of the ammonia leak remained undetermined.

The rail car reportedly contained a mixture of ammonia, oxime and cyclohexanone.


The explosion was felt 50 miles away. A live video report six hours after the blast can be viewed here off the Click2Houston September 13th article page. From that article:
Company officials released the following timeline.

9:10 a.m.: Employees were working on the railcar when a chemical release was reported.
9:20 a.m.: Area was evacuated.
9:30 a.m.: Explosion and fire were reported.

"The tank car over-pressured, causing the explosion," said Sharon Rogers, with BASF.


The announcement of a BASF investigation can be read here. Checking their press releases reveals no information regarding the progress of that investigation.

The truely annoying thing about all this is that the news media has for the most part been silent about the explosion, giving it a day or two of coverage and leaving the rest up to bare-bones wire reports, minimal local coverage, and a handful of chemical organizations. Googling "BASF" and "explosion" pull up my site (I'm flattered) and then about 3,000 other hits, the vast majority of which use the same recycled information from the 13th.

These sites either turn up nothing or leave something behind a registration barrier:

Google News search
Yahoo search
Fox News
LA Times
NY Times
Washington Post
Financial Times
CNN
UPI
ABC News
Austin-American Statesman
Houston Chronicle
Dallas Morning News
Houston Press
KHOU

The Chemsafety.gov website and the National Incident Notification Network website have nothing. Here is a report filed by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board updated through 9/18.

We continue to wait.

UPDATED 3/24/2005 8:49am
The Reality of Refinery Work



Posted by Drizzten at November 11, 2002 09:13 PM

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