A large fireball erupted at an oil refinery after an explosion in Louisiana on Tuesday night.
Plant owners Exxon said no one was hurt in the explosion at the refinery in Baton Rouge but enormous flames could be seen shooting up from the Louisiana chemical center for miles around.
The fire was so intense that the glow of the blaze could be seen some distance away. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.
Social media footage showed Exxon Mobil Corp’s 502,500 barrel-per-day plant ablaze until it was finally extinguished by the refinery’s fire team on Wednesday morning.
The Baton Rouge Fire Department was on the scene shortly after midnight. Exxon posted on Twitter that its own fire crew had the blaze contained to the area where it occurred.
A spokesman for the department said: ‘There has not been any off-site impact. We sent Baton Rouge Fire Department hazmat teams out and they’re continuing at this time to monitor outside air quality. They have not picked up any readings outside the facility.’
The air outside the plant ‘bore no particular odor’, The Advocate, a daily newspaper in Baton Rouge reported. There was no off-site impact, fire department spokesman Curt Monte said.
An Exxon spokesman said in a statement: ‘There are no injuries, with all personnel accounted for. The fire was contained to the area where it occurred.’
The perimeter and surrounding areas of North Baton Rouge will be actively monitored, the spokesman added, though ‘at this point, all readings are non-detect’.
The plant reportedly produces some 6.7 billion pounds of petrochemical products in a year.
The company’s integrated facilities in the southern American state produce a range of oil-based products – such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel – as well as everyday items like paint and plastic milk jugs.
The company earlier said the fire was contained in the area it occurred and there were no reported injuries with all personnel accounted for.
Exxon is monitoring air quality in the refinery and surrounding areas, company spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said.
He added: ‘We apologize for any inconvenience and concern this incident may have caused.
‘We will continue to keep you updated with information as it becomes available. The safety of our workforce and community is ExxonMobil’s highest priority.’
Officials plan to launch a thorough investigation into the incident to find out exactly what caused the fire.
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome praised first responders for their swift response to the incident.
‘Good job to our first responders for their response to the fire at ExxonMobil overnight. I’m thankful there were no injuries and Baton Rouge Fire Department determined there was no offsite impact to air quality,’ she wrote on Twitter.
The Baton Rouge refinery is the fifth-largest in the US and has more than 1,250 full-time and over 1,800 contract employees, it’s website states.
In a major explosion on Christmas Eve, 1989, at the same facility, one worker died and several others were injured, The Advocate reports.
Exxon spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry declined on Wednesday to discuss the status of units at the refinery. He did say operations were continuing at the refinery and adjoining chemical plant.
Eikenberry also said Exxon would continue to meet its contractual commitments.
The 210,000-bpd PSLA-10 CDU is the largest of three at the refinery doing the primary conversion of crude oil into hydrocarbon feedstock for all other production units. The natural gas is used to operate the units as they breakdown crude oil.
One of the two 110,000-bpd gasoline producing fluidic catalytic cracking units (FCCUs) continues to operate at a minimal production level while one of the light ends units is also operating at minimum rates, the sources said.
The Baton Rouge refinery is the second-largest in Louisiana and the fifth-largest in the United States by capacity. It is Exxon’s second-largest refinery in the nation.