Chemical Plant Explosion

Event Year: 2008 Reliability: Confirmed
Country: United States
Industry Type: Chemical

An explosion and fire occurred at the Bayer Cropscience plant in West Virginia.  The explosion was caused by the runaway reaction that created extremely high heat and pressure in the residue treater which ruptured and flew 50ft in the air.  Two operators died.  There were signficant lapses in the plant’s process safety management.  This includes inadequate training on new equipment and the overriding of critical safety systems which was necessary since the heater could not produce the required temperature for safe operations.  Prior to starting up, Bayer recently upgraded the computer control system for the Methomyl/Larvin unit.  The control sceens of the Siemens system were completely different than the Honeywell system that was replaced. Operators were not adequately trained. Operators used a workaround to deal with the longstanding heater problem.


The failure to follow procedures, lack of training and overriding safety control systems resulted in an explosion.  Two operators died and the public was put at risk.  Eight workers reported symptoms of chemical exposure.