Williams Olefins: ‘The extent of the damage is unknown at this time’
GONZALES, LA — Representatives from Williams Olefins held a press conference in Gonzales at noon on Friday, June 14 to update the public about the status of the plant and the pending investigation.
“We will continue to work with regulators and authorities to establish what happened yesterday,” Larry Bayer, manager of the plant, said. “We intend to keep the community and the public informed through this process.”
Bayer explained that roughly 21 employees and 4 contractors are at the plant today. They are responsible for ensuring the shutdown of the plant and safety. All of the remaining employees were instructed at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday not to return to on Friday. He did not say how long the plant will remain closed, but they will be paid for the entire length of time.
In the coming days, a full investigation will be completed to determine the cause of the blast. Bayer noted that they have not yet entered the blast site because some material is still burning. However, it is a controlled flare
“The extent of the damage is unknown at this time,” he said. “We are assessing the plant’s structural integrity currently.”
Bayer concluded by asking for continued support from the community.
“Please keep our injured employees and families in your prayers,” he said.
At the beginning of the press conference, he provided information about Zachary Green, the man killed in the blast.
“Green was an operator at the plant. He started work at Williams last October. Zack will be deeply missed by his friends at the Geismar plant and throughout Williams.”
He said 6 people are still in the hospital.
A total of 77 people were reportedly injured from the blast, which happened shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 13. He said there were 839 people on site at the time of the blast. That included full-time employees and contractors. The plant was currently completing an expansion, but officials say that did not contribute to the explosion.
The Williams Olefins plant produces approximately 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene. Ethylene is extremely flammable and is easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames. It can form explosive mixtures in the air.