Last Sunday morning, over 300,000 pounds worth of toxic gas was accidentally released into the air at the Deer Park Shell Oil facility.
According to reports from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the emission hazard in Southeastern Texas was occurred at approximately 10:40 am at the Shell Deer Park site. Operating personnel discovered the leak roughly 15 minutes later. The Houston Chronicle reported that 326,166 pounds of butadiene escaped through an open valve on a spherical tank between 10:40 am and 11:35 am.
“This release is huge,” stated Sierra Club of Texas chemist Neil Carman to the Chronicle. “Even 10 percent of 326,000 is big for butadiene.”
Carman, who was also a former power plant inspector for the TCEQ, said that butadiene is a known human carcinogen. However, he noted that its molecular structure allows it to dissipate quickly in the hot summer air. The chemical is commonly expelled in car exhaust, but Carman said the quantity in the Shell incident was concerning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that long-term exposure to butadiene is linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease and leukemia.
Shell spokesperson Ray Fisher said the company is investigating the cause of the release. Meanwhile, data from nearby monitors did not exceed TCEQ odor or health-based screening levels during the incident.
“To the best of our knowledge, there were no adverse impacts on the community,” Fisher said.