A faulty insulator knocked out power to Dow Chemical’s Texas City chemical plant, officials said.
The entire plant shut down after the power outage about 6 a.m. Wednesday. Dow issued a Level 1 alert, as is standard when there is a plantwide emergency shutdown. There were no injuries, company spokeswoman Beth Dombrowa said.
Part of the Level 1 alert requires a lock out of all contractors until the plant gets power back. The alert only allows essential Dow employees in the plant.
By noon, the plant had partial power.
“We now have limited power and are making plans for a safe, orderly start up of all units, although we do not yet have a specific time frame for returning to planned operating rates,” Dombrowa said.
The outage started when one of two power lines from Texas-New Mexico Power Co.’s Apache substation on Fifth Avenue South, went down, power company spokeswoman Cathy Garber said.
“Initially, it was believed that a faulty lightning arrestor caused this incident,” Garber said. “However, upon closer inspection, (Texas-New Mexico Power) has found that the problem was a faulty insulator. At this point, we have no indication that the fault was due to contamination, but further inspection of the insulator is planned.”
Contamination is a buildup of dirt and salt water residue that can lead to arching and failures along power lines and within substations.
Dow set off several of its flares to burn off excess product and to relieve pressure on the units as they went offline. The power outage caused minor problems at other Texas City petrochemical facilities, but only Dow was in a shutdown mode, Texas City Homeland Security Director Bruce Clawson said.
While a second power supply line was working, the drop in voltage likely caused power systems to shut down within Dow.
It was the second time since a massive power outage in April that Dow had to scramble a plantwide shutdown. A series of power outages caused by problems at a power substation knocked power out at Dow, BP’s refinery and chemical plant and Valero’s refinery. Marathon Oil also experienced outage problems during the April blackouts.
Power company officials blamed contaminated insulators in and outside substations and within the petrochemical facilities for those outages.