Utility Denies Causing Outages in Texas Town

April 27, 2011

A utility serving refineries and chemical plants in Texas that shut down when electricity was lost says it’s not the source of the outages.

Three Texas City refineries, including a BP unit where a 2005 explosion killed 15 people, and a Dow Chemical plant lost electricity.

BP and Dow lost power to their facilities, which are next door to each other, around 10:55 p.m. Monday. Both plants shut down all their units when they were unable to restore power.

Because of the power outage, BP was flaring to burn off excess product. At least nine large flares could be seen from Interstate 45.

BP spokesman Michael Marr said a small fire broke out at the refinery shortly after the power went out but crews were able to put it out. There were no injuries at the refinery, Marr said.

The outages that began Monday night led to shelter-in-place emergency alerts Tuesday, advising people to stay indoors, and cancellation of public schools.

Texas City Homeland Security coordinator Bruce Clawson says the second Level 3 emergency advisory took effect around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday after a Valero refinery also lost power. Clawson told The Associated Press that Level 3 means residents should stay indoors.

Cathy Garber with Texas New Mexico Power told The Associated Press that the outages involve a “customer-owned equipment problem.” She says the unidentified problem could involve dry weather, such as salt accumulating on transmission lines near water. Texas City is near the Gulf of Mexico.

The city and BP reported no emissions of hazardous materials in the area, said George Fuller, assistant emergency management coordinator for the city.

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