Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the fire, which burned for nearly seven hours and injured four people.
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said three of the injured workers were taken to hospitals by Life Flight. One other was taken by ground ambulance.
ExxonMobil confirmed all employees were accounted for overnight.
Two of the victims were later released from hospitals on Thursday. Two others remained and were stable, according to ExxonMobil spokesperson Julie King.
The company said air quality monitoring shows ‘no adverse impact’ from the fire.
Flames reportedly broke out in the part of the refinery that produces gasoline. While employees were evacuated from that section, the rest of the plant was still in operation.
The fire involved the chemical naphtha, which is very flammable, according to Rachel Neutzler with the Fire Marshal’s office.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, naphtha is “a generic term applied to a refined or partially refined petroleum fraction with an approximate boiling range between 122 degrees and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Neutzler said investigators will talk to everyone involved and will look at the physical evidence to see if they match.
“We’ll take all the interviews. We’ve pulled some of the social media pictures and visuals that we’ve seen, and then we’ll work again with ExxonMobil,” Neutzler said. “If they’ve got any security footage on site that we can look at, and we’ll determine exactly, ‘Was there an explosion and then a fire? Was there a fire then an explosion? What was that sequence of events that happened?’”
KHOU 11 received multiple viewer reports of the fire. One person sent us video, which is below.
KHOU 11 reporter Ugochi Iloka spoke with local residents who reported being hearing a loud boom.
Other in the area post online, claiming they could hear a loud noise miles away from the plant. Some said they felt their bed, and even their house, rattle.
If you were impacted by this incident, ExxonMobil ask that you call 1-800-241-9010.
ExxonMobil released the following statement:
“Our first priority is people in the community and in our facilities. Air monitoring continues along the fence line. Available information shows no adverse air quality monitoring impact to the community or personnel on site at this time.
We are saddened to inform that four people were injured and are receiving medical treatment. All four individuals are in stable condition. All other personnel have been accounted for.
We are in the process of setting have set up an information line for community members affected by this incident. Please call 1-800-241-9010.
The causes of the incident have not yet been determined. We are coordinating with authorities as appropriate, and all findings will be incorporated in our continuing effort to enhance our safety performance.
We deeply regret any disruption or inconvenience that this incident caused to the community.”
Company officials held a news conference at around 4:30 a.m. to give an update on the fire. Here’s that news conference in its entirety:
The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating reports of an explosion, but not confirming one yet. They plan to interview those injured at the hospital and survey the area.
About ExxonMobil’s Baytown facility
ExxonMobil’s Baytown facility sits on around 3,400 acres along the Houston Ship Channel. It has four manufacturing sites. According to the company’s website, there are around 7,000 employees.
Some facts about the facility from their web site.
- The ExxonMobil refinery can produce up to 584,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
- The chemical plant produces products, such as butyl in tires and polypropylene, which goes into car bumpers.
- The Olefins Plant is one of the largest ethylene plants in the world
- The Mont Belvieu plastics plant produces high- and low-density polyethylene, which goes into items like film to bundle water bottles and heavy-duty sacks that hold food.
This is a breaking story. We’ll continue to monitor and will post any new information as we get it. Sign up for breaking news notifications on the KHOU 11 news app.