HOUSTON — A lawsuit has been filed following a Baytown refinery fire last week.
Houston attorney Tony Buzbee filed a suit against ExxonMobil for two of the four people hurt. The fire happened Thursday in a unit at ExxonMobil in Baytown that produces gasoline.
The fire started at around 1 a.m. and burned well into the daylight hours before the company confirmed in a release sent around 9 a.m. that morning that the fire had been extinguished.
Three people suffered flash burn injuries, and the fourth employee suffered a broken leg, authorities said.
"We deeply regret this disruption,” said refinery manager Rohan Davis shortly after the incident. "Clearly, this is a very unfortunate incident. We will do a thorough investigation to make sure an event like this doesn’t happen again.”
Davis said the fire broke out in a unit that produces gasoline. It was fueled, in part, by a flammable liquid known as Naphtha which is used to dilute crude oil.
While employees were evacuated from the impacted section, the rest of the plant was still in operation. There were never any evacuation or shelter-in-place orders.
"This is not the first time ExxonMobil, at this location, has had an incident like this,” said Air Alliance Houston executive director Jen Hadayia.
The non-profit, which is dedicated to reducing public health impacts of air pollution, considers another incident unacceptable.
Hadayia believes stricter enforcement and accountability continue to be needed in an area with hundreds of petrochemical and manufacturing facilities.
"Chemical disasters like this are preventable," said Hadayia. "An apology is not going to prevent the next one.”
ExxonMobil set up an information line for any community members to find out more information: 1-800-241-9010.
Rachel Neutzler with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office 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?’”
Shortly after the fire, ExxonMobil set up a line for people in the community affected by the fire. That number is 1-800-241-9010.
Company officials held a news conference at around 4:30 a.m. the morning of the fire to give an update. Here was that news conference in its entirety:
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 website.
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.