Plant explosion was in St. James

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 16, 2006


Staff Reporter

CONVENT – An explosion at the Mosaic Faustina Fertilizer ammonia plant Wednesday night shook homes in nearby neighborhoods, but caused minimal damage with no injuries, officials from the plant reported.

The explosion occurred at approximately 8:15 p.m. at the plant’s site in St. James located at 9959 Highway 18, just over the Sunshine Bridge near the Mississippi River.

According to a release from the Louisiana State Police, which responded to the incident, a preliminary investigation revealed that the explosion occurred in piping that travels between a converter and a boiler. The hot and highly pressurized pipe contained hydrogen that the converter uses to make Anhydrous Ammonia. The hydrogen escaping from the piping ignited and exploded.

Plant Manager Bob Dennis was thankful there were no injuries reported and says the plant was overall only minimally damaged and could be back up to full capacity as soon as they need to be, but wanted to isolate the problem first and foremost.

&#8220We resumed operations Thursday, although we could have started running again last night,” Dennis said. &#8220We decided to wait, though, so we could get our daytime people in to take a look at things in the light before we continued operations.”

&#8220The hydrogen released as a result of the blast combined with the oxygen in the air to create water,” Dennis said, so no toxins were released.

Although the plant suffered minimal damage overall, the vessel containing the hydrogen that exploded was damaged rather severely. Dennis said there were no indications of anything being wrong with the unit prior to the explosion, but metal traces from the vessel will be sent off to Baton Rouge based Scientific Testing Laboratories, which will conduct extensive tests on the sample to determine what exactly went awry.

Dennis said he is currently heading an on-site investigation into the explosion and all the proper environmental agencies have been contacted and are pleased with the response thus far.