plant flaring issues graphic

SULPHUR — Indorama Venture's senior site director said Thursday the plant will likely begin start-up operations again sometime during the week of Aug. 5.

"One thing I can promise you is there won't be months and months of flaring," said Tony Barre of the planned start-up.

Barre, who took over the position of site director in April, spoke to residents at the Maplewood Drive Recreation Center in a community forum to address concerns remaining from the failed start-up in December of last year. Residents throughout the Sulphur and Westlake area complained of flaring and "grumbling and booming" sounds that went on for months and many sleepless nights before the company announced in mid-June it was voluntarily halting operations at the unit.

A resident told Barre that Indorama "didn't start out with the best reputation" locally. "That's not lost on me," responded Barre.

The facility, previously owned by OxyChem, is on 250 acres located off Cities Service Highway in Sulphur. Indorama, which began its work here in 2015, refurbished and expanded the dormant ethane cracker there and had been attempting the start-up of operations that would produce 370,000 metric tons of ethylene and 30,000 metric tons of propylene. Barre said most of the issues were the result of a byproduct of the process — an oil-like substance — getting into the "wrong places" and fouling up instrumentation. He said the contamination caused the boilers to trip, which in turn caused a loss of steam.

"We've cleaned it out over the last couple of weeks," he said.

Barre said the process will entail two to three days of noise and flaring.

"It should start low and then build and then trail back off," he said.

Barre said Indorama is just as invested as residents are in seeing the process move quickly. "It costs us $1 million a day to run that flare, depending on the price of ethylene," he said.

Barre said the company is working closely with environmental regulatory agencies.

"We've had our environmental challenges," Barre said. "We've had a number of enforcement actions spanning a few years. We've had the regulators in and out of our plant and for the past few weeks have been working with them to resolve our environmental and permit issues."

Rob Lynch, head of safety and environment for Indorama, said the company has had to pay a few small penalties to the Louisiana State Police and Coast Guard for filing reports late. He said an EPA audit had nine findings, all related to documentation.

Barre said he wanted to hold the forum to introduce himself and others from Indorama to the community. He said he lives in an apartment in Maplewood and he and his wife are looking to buy a house.

"I didn't want the community to have this Indorama creature out there that they didn't know anything about," he said. "The people who work at the plant universally want the plant to run well."

Residents with concerns during the upcoming start-up can call the Indorama hotline at 502-4754.

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