One man was killed as a result of Tuesday’s explosion and fire at the Enterprise Products oil and gas facility near Mont Belvieu, Texas. The cause of the Enterprise Products plant explosion is still under investigation.
Houston-based Enterprise is one of the country’s largest shippers and processors of natural gas, and owns 49,100 miles of onshore and offshore pipelines. According to the Houston Chronicle, the facility separates natural gas liquids into different components before storage or injection into pipelines. It has a capacity of about 305,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day.
The Texas chemical plant explosion started around 12:15 p.m. local time Tuesday. The blast was felt as far away as Anahuac and Crosby. The fire sparked flames that could be seen for seven miles, and thick black smoke filled the air. The flames engulfed a section of the plant, and several cars in the facility’s parking lot were also set ablaze. Because of the intensity of the fire, crews were forced to let it burn itself out.
According to the Associated Press, the remains of Rick Shaw, a contractor at the plant, were discovered Wednesday.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the incident. Plant officials said that while the cause has not yet been determined, a possible pipeline failure is considered a suspect.
The Houston Chronicle said its preliminary search of OSHA data does not find any prior incidents at the Mont Belvieu Enterprise facility. However, a worker was killed at another Enterprise Facility located in Johnson County, Texas in June 2005. That incident involved an unexpected release of pressurized flammable material from a production compressor. According to The Wall Street Journal, Texas regulators found that safety rules were violated in connection with that incident.
Mont Belvieu is a major natural gas storage and processing hub sitting atop a salt dome formation, where the natural gas industry stores more volatile hydrocarbons than anywhere else in the world, NBC News said. Explosions and gas leaks plagued the town throughout the early 1980s. In July 1986, water with five times the saltiness of ocean water crept into the drinking water supply. A coalition of area petrochemical companies bought out 200 families in the town later that year, NBC News said, and the center of the town was moved two miles down the road.