There was an evacuation in Baytown, TX, Sunday after a pipeline leaked a highly flammable chemical outside an ExxonMobil plant.
No one suffered an injury in the leak of dilute propylene in the leak of a pipeline extending from the largest chemical plant and oil refinery complex in the country. Dilute propylene is a highly flammable gas often used for fuel.
Emergency responders evacuated residents in the area and successfully shut down two valves to stop the leak, said Victor Medrano, assistant fire chief for the Baytown Fire Department. He said his team took extra precautions because the agent does not easily dissipate.
ExxonMobil launched an investigation into the incident to determine the leak’s source, said company spokesperson, Ashley Smith Alemayehu. The pipelines will not restart until “it is safe to do so,” she said.
Later on, Smith Alemayehu said, “The release has been stopped and the pipeline has been safely isolated. We are preparing to safely conduct repairs on the pipeline. We appreciate the assistance of the Baytown Police and Fire Departments, who ensured a safe and effective response. We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience this caused to nearby residents.”
Medrano said he responded to reports of a pipeline leak near ExxonMobil’s plant on Bayway at 10:10 a.m.
At 10:30 a.m., the Baytown Police Department issued a shelter-in-place warning for residents near the 5500 block of Bayway Drive, between Park and Arbor streets, due to a “chemical emergency.”
Less than an hour later, the department said it planned to evacuate residents from the community located 25 miles east of downtown Houston.
ExxonMobil confirmed the leak in a statement earlier Sunday:
“ExxonMobil Pipeline Company has shut down two chemical product pipelines in Baytown this morning to investigate a release. We are working with local emergency responders and closely with local officials to ensure the safety of the public. We are continuing to investigate the source of the release.”
The incident occurred at a facility that stores and handles numerous dangerous chemicals and has a history of chemical leaks and other incidents.
Propylene is a highly flammable, colorless fuel gas produced during the refining of gasoline. The chemical, which bears similarities to propane, can also end up used to make acetone and plastics.