An Orangeburg, SC, chemical plant’s in-house emergency-response crew jumped into action and put out a blaze that sent plumes of black smoke billowing upward across the area last Tuesday afternoon.
The fire at SI Group (formerly Albemarle) began about 4:25 p.m. and was out within 20 minutes by the plant’s incident-response team, said SI Group Plant Manager Tyler Windsor.
“We believe what was burning was a heat-transfer fluid — a heavy oil that is used to transfer heat to different processes,” Windsor said. “It is non-toxic like a hydrocarbon fire.”
“We don’t know what the exact failure mechanism was, but there was a release. It found an ignition source and it started to burn,” he said.
Windsor said the plant did not undergo an evacuation and there were no injuries.
“Relative to the whole facility, it was a small portion of the plant,” Windsor said. “It was a relatively isolated area.”
Windsor said he was unsure if the fire interrupted any of the plant processes or what if any shutdown would be necessary.
“I won’t know until we finish the complete investigation,” he said.
The plant called Orangeburg County’s Emergency Response team but did not need direct assistance in fighting the fire. Both the response team and the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety provided traffic control outside the plant.
“We have a really world-class, trained incident-response team and they responded to this right away to make sure the impact was held to a minimum,” Windsor said.
The fire comes on the heels of the company’s celebration of safety success in October as recognized by the American Chemistry Council’s Guiding Principles of Responsible Care.
The SI Group purchased Orangeburg’s Albemarle Corporation plant in April 2014. The purchase closed in September.
The Orangeburg plant employs 322 people and has 100 contractor employees.