Tonawanda Coke says no one was hurt in what it now calls an explosion and fire. In a statement, Tonawanda Coke says its "analysis revealed that extremely cold temperatures caused an air-line to freeze, and a blockage to form in a gas line, at its facility. The combination of the simultaneous blockages caused a higher-than-usual build-up of pressure of coke oven gas in the manifold on the south side of the facility’s coke oven battery. The build-up of higher-than-usual pressure resulted in a disk rupture on a manifold underneath the coke oven battery at approximately 11:50 a.m. One minute later, the coke oven gas in the confined area underneath the battery combusted, resulting in an explosion. A small fire then burned for approximately twelve minutes before it was extinguished by trained on-site operators using both steam and water."
Tonawanda Coke says it has already begun an expansion and enhancement of its current preventive maintenance plan and monitoring routine; upgrading its plant instrument-air supply system to minimize freezing risks; and, the installation of an extractive type primary cooler to improve coke oven gas cleaning, further minimizing the risk of blockages and obstructions to flow within the facility’s system.
Tonawanda Coke says it has also has submitted a detailed written incident follow up report to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the State Emergency Response Committee, local fire officials, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Tonawanda Coke says it will continue to cooperate with the agencies’ during their review of the incident.