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TPC Group Agrees to Pay Over $30 Million in Criminal Fines and Civil Penalties

By Mary de Wet

 

TPC Group has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act four years ago and agreed to pay more than $30 million in criminal fines and civil penalties.

The Texas petrochemical company also agreed to spend about $80 million to improve its risk management program and improve safety issues at its Port Neches and Houston facilities, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

The case involved explosions at TPC's Port Neches facility on Nov. 27, 2019. The blasts prompted the evacuations of thousands of residents within a four-mile radius of the plant, released more than 11 million pounds of hazardous substances and caused more than $130 million in offsite property damage and other impacts to human health and the environment, the Justice Department said. Four employees and one contractor suffered injuries, the department said.

The facility produced butadiene, which is used in the production of tires, latexes and plastics. Butadiene can form a popcorn polymer that can grow at an accelerating rate.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said in December 2022 that TPC had failed to identify an out-of-service pump within the butadiene unit caused a hazardous temporary "dead leg" that allowed popcorn polymer to expand in the piping section until the piping ruptured. The rupture released butadiene into the unit, which ignited and caused the initial explosion, followed by subsequent blasts.

The Justice Department said TPC was aware that this polymer was forming in some of its production lines, and the risks it posed, but failed to take necessary measures to prevent the explosion.

"TPC pleaded guilty to knowingly failing to implement its own written operating procedures, including monthly flushing of production lines, that would have prevented the explosion. Clean Air Act regulations require planning to prevent accidental releases of hazardous chemicals and makes implementation of those plans mandatory," the Justice Department said.

The company agreed to pay $18 million in criminal fines. The plea agreement includes a one-year term of probation and a public apology, the department said.

The civil penalty totals $12.1 million, and payments will be made through bankruptcy proceedings, the Justice Department said. TPC filed for chapter 11 in June 2022.

 

Write to Mary de Wet at mary.dewet@dowjones.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 21, 2024 18:20 ET (22:20 GMT)

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