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Plant Outages Prompt Shelter-In-Place

Emergency officials in Texas City lift an order for residents to stay inside after power outages shut down three Houston-area refineries and a chemical plant. A combination of refinery electrical equipment problems and power grid issues appear to be behind the outages. Pat Hernandez has more.



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The BP Texas City refinery, Marathon, Valero and Dow chemical plants lost power late Monday night a shelter in place was issued. It was lifted after power was restored early Tuesday morning. The power then went out about an hour later,
and the shelter-in-place was reissued. It was lifted again shortly before noon. Bruce Clawson is Texas City Homeland Security coordinator. He says the danger has not yet passed.
“No, it’s still a level-2, which means all is not well, but it is not impacting the community.”

When these facilities lose power, the product in the lines: crude oil, diesel, chemicals and other substances must be burned off, to avoid a build up in pressure that could trigger an explosion. Officials said none of the air quality stations have reported dangerously high levels of carcinogens or chemicals, but they didn’t want to chance it, with so much product being burned off into the air.

Cathy Garber is a spokeswoman for Texas New Mexico Power, a company that owns the power lines in the Texas City area. She says between 9:30 and 11:30 Monday night, there were 4 events that affected the transmission of power.

“Some kind of equipment failure or some problem occurred on the equipment that is not part of TNMP’s equipment, but it did affect our transmission line.”

Garber says the lack of rain in the area could have allowed salt from the sea air to accumulate on the equipment, causing it to short.

“One of the reasons we suspect that is some of our equipment had a similar incident happened, where we have been able to look into it, and we do believe that it was because the lack of rain, the salt, the residue has built up on the equipment.”

She adds that TNMP will spray its equipment in Texas City to remove salt accumulation as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, representatives from the other companies say they don’t believe their equipment caused the widespread power outages.