Explosion in glycerin refining area shuts down Imperium

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 20, 2009
Posted December 8, 2009

Imperium Renewables Grays Harbor had nicely begun producing after a protracted shut down due to poor economic conditions when a Dec. 2 explosion shut the plant down again. "As we continue to assess the incident we are extremely thankful that no one was injured," Imperium CEO John Plaza said. "We remain committed to restarting our plant as soon as possible to produce the highest quality biofuel."

A company statement released after the explosion said a glycerin processing tank in the glycerin refining section of the 100 MMgy biodiesel plant ruptured as a result of over-pressurization. There were no injuries and no fire. The 10,000 gallon tank contained heated glycerin. As a result of the rupture, heated glycerin in the tank mixed with cold air creating a large vapor plume. The insulation on the glycerin processing tank was wrapped in an aluminum cover. The force of the rupture scattered aluminum and insulation across the Imperium Grays Harbor property and adjacent property.

In addition, the rupture damaged nearby pipes and two adjacent tanks, containing biodiesel and other materials used in the refining of glycerin, including sulfuric acid held in a 5000 gallon tank provided by the vendor. The processing tank and other tanks are located in a fully contained area and were not endangered.

A day after the explosion, the company reported representatives from the Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. EPA were on site monitoring air quality and measuring environmental impacts around the plant and were not finding air quality issues. It was also confirmed the sulfuric acid leak was limited to the facility's property and should not pose a threat to surrounding bodies of water or nearby residences or business. "The company if grateful for the support of local first responders and the Grays Harbor community as the clean up continues," the company said in its statement. "No additional information on the cause of the accident, or the timeline for repair is available at this time."
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