Mississippi Biodiesel Plant Fire That Caused $3.5M Damage Ruled Accidental

April 4, 2014

The state fire marshal’s has ruled as an accident the January fire and explosion at JNS Biofuels plant near New Albany, Miss.

The report was released Wednesday.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports the fire marshal found the likely cause of the incident was a problem with a thermal oil heater or pump used in the distillation process to produce biodiesel.

However, investigators couldn’t determine an exact cause for the fire and subsequent explosions because of extensive damage to the area of the blast.

The estimated damage to property and contents was $3.5 million.

Most of the damaged equipment has been removed from the site, and crews have been seen working there.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality says it has had discussions with JNS, “but they have not applied” for permits to resume production, said spokesman Robbie Wilbur.

“In addition, we would need specifics on the facility to determine what permits would be needed,” Wilbur said.

The JNS Biofuels plant used chicken fat, soybean oils and other oils to produce B100 biodiesel. It was equipped to store 8,000 gallons of methanol, 37,000 gallons of glycerin, 46,000 gallons of feedstock oil, 8,000 gallons of sodium methylate and 2,000 gallons of fuel oil.

According to the fire marshal’s report, JNS employee Jimmy Clowers walked out to take a sample from one of the chicken fat container tanks. Clowers heard a hissing sound around 5:45 a.m. and saw an orange glow from one of the chicken fat tanks.

While he didn’t see a fire, he told investigators he knew the glow was a fire. He then ran to a trailer where another JNS employee, James Rhodes, was sleeping and woke him up. As they ran, the plant exploded.

The men were not injured and no other injuries were reported. The fire spread to the other tanks, and two explosions later followed the initial blast.

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