Motorist shares scary scene while driving by BASF TotalEnergies plant fire Tuesday

Published 2:26 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2023

When Betty Reyes saw workers leaving on foot from the area of a local industrial plant, she began to worry.

Reyes was near BASF TotalEnergies in Port Arthur on Tuesday when she saw hundreds of workers crossing the roadway toward Texas 73.

“I was scared,” she said. “I thought somebody had gotten hurt,”

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Reyes was worried because she remembered so many dangerous things happening over the years at refineries.

Reyes has a family member who works in the plant and knows others who work there, she said.

Reyes shared photos of workers crossing the road, a small flare near the FM 366 side of the road and dark smoke coming from a different area of the facility.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, a fire occurred in the pyrolysis gasoline unit at the BASF TotalEnergies Petrochemicals site. At 11:55 a.m., the extractive dissolution tower in the pygas unit collapsed, Shelly Vitanza, manager of community and government affairs.

Employees not directly involved in resolving the incident were evacuated at approximately 12:20 p.m. out of an abundance of caution and emergency personnel responded.
Vitanza said all employees were accounted for and there were no injuries and no offsite impact.

“BASF regards protection of health, safety and the environment as our most important responsibility,” Vitanza said. “We care about our employees and we care about our communities. We are committed to operating facilities in a safe and environmentally responsible fashion.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Port Arthur Fire Chief Greg Benson said they were called in to the plant as mutual aid and responded with a ladder truck.

The fire was contained at approximately 1:28 p.m., Vitanza said.