Chemical company says March fire was unexpected

Jul 9, 2012

GEISMAR — A Houston-based chemical company contends it should not be penalized for a March plant fire at its vinyl chloride complex here because an unexpected and unprecedented chemical chain reaction touched off the fire.

The Westlake Chemical Corp. recently released details about the March 22 incident in a 14-page letter to environmental regulators, according to the Advocate ( In the letter, Andrew Kenner, vice president of Westlake's manufacturing, says the reaction was not the result of operator error and could not have been anticipated.

The company is asking the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to not penalize it.

Kenner's letter says the fire involved a far smaller chemical release than initially reported, primarily steam. A separate fire continued past 8:20 a.m. in an ethylene line.