An explosion at Pasadena Refining System, Inc. (PRSI) on Saturday has left one worker injured. The accident occurred just after 10:00 A.M. on the 100 block of Red Bluff Road. The worker was transported to a local hospital with a flash burn to the hand.
According to plant managers, the explosion was believed to have started when hydrogen was released from a compressor while starting up a hydrodesulfurization unit. The hydrogen lit the diesel fuel in the unit on fire. The plume of smoke could be seen from miles away, and got so large at one point that the nearby Houston Ship Channel had to be closed. The refinery's own team of firefighters were able to put out the blaze.
The refinery plant has a history of violating Environmental Protection Agency regulations, including "significant" violations of the U.S. Clean Air Act, and has been fined more than a million dollars by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. OSHA records at least nine citations for the plant in the past.
Thankfully, Harris County Pollution Control officials did not find any indications of off-site impact, but the community is worried about the impact these types of accidents have on the environment. Refinery explosions send large amounts of toxic pollutants into the air, and neighbors are concerned that plants are not doing enough to ensure that these types of accidents don't continue to happen. There are 20,901 households in the area around the plant, including approximately 24,484 children.
This is just the latest in a string of explosions that have occurred in industrial plants in the Houston area, and the second explosion accident in Pasadena since the beginning of this year.
For updates on the Pasadena plant explosion, please visit KHOU online.