Shell, Pemex face fines for Texas chemical plant fire in May
(Reuters) - Shell Plc and Pemex each could face more than $1 MM in fines over a Deer Park, Texas, chemical plant fire in May under a lawsuit filed by the state's attorney general.
The suit alleges the companies violated the Texas Clean Air Act, Texas Water Code and Texas Solid Waste Act in battling the blaze that raged in the Shell chemical plant in the Houston suburb of Deer Park.
A Shell spokesperson said the company is aware of the lawsuit filed on Aug. 7 in state district court in Austin but declined to comment citing pending litigation.
A Pemex spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment.
Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company, operates a 312,500 barrel-per-day crude oil refinery adjacent to the chemical plant in Deer Park. It bought out Shell’s stake in the oil refining partnership in 2022.
Each violation could carry a fine of up to $25,000 per day for each separate contaminant released in violation of the three laws, according to the filing.
The fire on an olefins unit burned from May 5 to 7 and sent a cloud of the thick black smoke over east Houston, according to the lawsuit.
Water used to fight the blaze and cool nearby equipment entered through a stormwater drainage system into the Houston Ship Channel between May 5 to 9 and through another part of the drainage system from May 5 to 26, according to the lawsuit.
The second discharge was estimated to be 68.7 million gallons of water, according to the lawsuit.
Provisional Texas Attorney General Angela Colmenero brought the lawsuit on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which enforces federal and state environmental laws.
Shell is investigating the fire and will share its findings when the probe is finished, said spokesperson Curtis Smith said.
“Seventy percent of the Deer Park site is operational,” Smith said. “Repair work on the damaged olefins unit has started and the plan is to have it up and running by the fourth quarter of this year.”