News alert: ExxonMobil fire emitted more chemicals than first thought; neighborhoods not endangered

    The fire that erupted last week at ExxonMobil’s north Baton Rouge refinery emitted thousands of pounds of sulfuric acid and flammable vapor—much more than originally expected—but the release of cancer-causing chemicals was lower than anticipated, according to a mandated “seven-day report” the oil and gas company filed today with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. 

    However, according to Baton Rouge Fire Department HAZMAT, LDEQ and ExxonMobil, air monitoring inside the plant and around surrounding neighborhoods did not detect the release of harmful concentrations of chemicals into the air or among the broader public. State officials speculate the fire combusted many of the chemicals involved, with ExxonMobil saying 98% of the chemicals burned in the blaze.

    A combustion of hydrocarbons from an elevated pipe rack released the chemicals into the air around 11:16 p.m. last Tuesday, according to the report. Approximately 75 ExxonMobil volunteer firefighters responded to the incident and were able to contain the blaze within minutes.

    An investigation is being conducted to determine the root cause of the combustion. Those results will be announced in a 60-day follow-up letter ExxonMobil will publish.

    Altogether, the reportable quantities for several different chemicals were exceeded, including benzene (33 pounds), 1,3-Butadiene (2,681 pounds), flammable vapor (62,093 pounds), sulfur dioxide (13,162 pounds), sulfuric acid (35,290 pounds) and >1 barrel of oil to soil (5 BBL). After further evaluation, the reportable quantity for hydrogen sulfide was not exceeded during the incident.

    Today’s report comes nearly one week after a fire erupted in Exxon’s north Baton Rouge refinery, casting a massive orange glow that was visible to observers miles away. The blaze—which was contained to the area where it occurred and did not involve any injuries—took almost seven hours to extinguish.

    The Baton Rouge refinery employs more than 1,250 full-time and 1,800 contract workers, producing approximately 502,500 barrels of crude oil each day. About 300 products are manufactured at the facility, including motor gasoline, diesel, aviation gasoline, lubricating oils, waxes, petroleum coke and more.