NewsCalcasieu Parish


UPDATE: Details released in explosion at Westlake chemical plant

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Posted at 11:14 AM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 15:14:12-05

We've learned more about the explosion at Westlake Chemical South this morning.

Company spokesman Joe Andrepont said six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries; one was treated by first-aid teams at the scene and five were transported to area hospitals. He said the cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

The incident happened just before 11 a.m. at the chemical plant referred to as Westlake Chemical South. It's located between Interstates 210 and 10, Andrepont explained.

Just after the fire and explosion happened, the company's fire response team was able to bring the fire under control, he said. There was a large plume of smoke after the explosion, but it dissipated fairly quickly, he said.

The incident required no nearby shelter-in-place orders, but several schools did so because they were following the school system's policy, Andrepont said. He said air quality tests found there was no environmental impact outside the site.

The company is now working with State Police, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Emergency Preparedness department of Calcasieu Parish to determine the cause of the explosion. The tank that exploded was empty but had contained ethylene dichloride; it is suspected that fumes of the chemical ignited, but the precise cause of the explosion is what is being investigated, Andrepont said.

"We don't know the cause. We're doing a full and thorough investigation," he said. "We don't know for sure what happened."

According to the Calcasieu Parish School Board, as of 11 a.m. all Sulphur and Westlake schools are under a precautionary shelter in place. All students, faculty, and staff are safe. We will provide an update when it has been lifted.

In September, six people were injured in an explosion at Westlake Chemical, but it was in a different location. That explosion happened around 11 p.m. on Sept. 27, at Westlake’s Petro 2 Plant on La. 108.

All six people injured in that explosion were contract employees working on a planned maintenance turnaround. That plant, used in the production of ethylene, was offline for the planned maintenance.
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