The ‘extremely flammable’ chemical behind the fire in the flooded Texas plant

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Early Thursday, while Texas wrestled with Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, a powerful reaction belched fire and black smoke from a chemical factory in Crosby, Tex., 30 miles northeast of Houston. The factory, operated by French chemical company Arkema, lost power in the flood. The refrigeration system used to cool tractor-trailer tankers full of chemicals failed. So did the backup generators. There was a popping noise, officials said. Then a warm tanker, full of liquid organic peroxides, erupted into flames.

Organic peroxides are “extremely flammable,” noted the company in a statement on its website Thursday. Arkema said it expected more fires to start and planned to allow the chemicals to burn themselves out…

If there is a silver lining to the peroxide accident Thursday, the chemicals’ reactivity means that they won’t stick around in the environment. The chemicals will burn too quickly for floodwaters to sweep any of the liquid away. “This is an acute event, not a chronic one,” Carroll said.

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