TX - ExxonMobil officials say flaring at plant could continue

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By M.A. Bengtson The Baytown Sun

Published July 20, 2000 2:03 AM CDT

BAYTOWN -- Flaring at ExxonMobil's Baytown Olefins Plant will continue another day or two, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Flaring was triggered by a mechanical problem with a compressor at the plant about 6 a.m. Monday. At that time, the flare was extremely large and included heavy black smoke.

Flaring is part of a safety system that activated to shut down operations and safely burn off fuel.

Laurel Carlisle, Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission toxicologist, said smoke from the flares could cause some respiratory irritation due to the particulate matter being emitted. However, there should be no adverse health effects, Carlisle said.

"It is possible that people who are exposed may experience temporary irritation effects such as coughing," Carlisle said.

ExxonMobil restarted the equipment that failed as soon as repairs were completed, said ExxonMobil's Charlotte Howard.

"The equipment that was shut down was restarted in the last 24 hours following confirmation that the equipment was in good condition," Howard said.

"We are now in the process of returning the operation to normal, a complex process that will take 24 to 48 hours to accomplish safely and in an environmentally sound way," Howard said.

When the flaring began, ExxonMobil industrial hygienists began monitoring emissions.

Howard reports that monitoring confirmed no environmental health risks for the community.

"While flaring has been reduced significantly, we will continue to flare at a much lower rate over the next day or so," Howard said.

Plant manager John Noel said the company was working to prevent a recurrence.

"We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused the community," he said.


-- Doris (reaper1@mindspring.com), July 20, 2000

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