International Paper: Off-gases caused major plant explosion

International Paper released preliminary findings from the explosion that caused $50 million worth of damages to the Cantonment plant.

The company said a combination of off-gasses combined with several possible ignition sources created an unusual chain of events that the company had never seen before.

A portion of the mill has been restarted and all team members have returned to work, the company reports.

On January 22, 2017, the plant experienced significant structural damage to the largest pulp digester as well as the power house at its Pensacola pulp and paper mill.

Preliminary Findings

The findings indicate that an explosive atmosphere was created by a combination of off-gasses normally produced in the pulping process and air introduced to maintain pressure while the vessel was not in operation. The explosive nature of the off-gasses and air combination was likely related to the extended period of mill down time prior to the incident where no chips and liquor were flowing into the digester. The gas mixture, combined with one of several possible ignition sources, provided the necessary components for the incident. The unusual set of circumstances set in motion a chain of events unlike any that International Paper had ever seen or heard of. The company has implemented enhanced procedures and protections across the entire mill system and has also taken the step to share this information industry-wide, to ensure enhanced safety measures are in place across the entire industry.

Community Update

Cleanup of homes is completed. We continue to have very close contact with community members. Our information line has been set up for several weeks. Anyone wishing to contact us may do so at 850-968-4208. The purpose of the information line is to address questions or concerns from area residents. We continue to actively address questions and concerns from residents. As Cantonment Mill Manager, Brett De Jong, has stated, “International Paper remains committed to the entire remediation effort. We are not going anywhere. We are going to be here.”

Mill Operations

As for the mill, all team members are back to work and have been since the incident occurred. A portion of the mill has been restarted. We continue to dedicate all resources to a safe return to full operations, but it is important we follow all responsible steps to do so. Hundreds of mill team members are working safely and diligently to get the facility fully operational.

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An accident, also known as an unintentional injury, is an undesirable, incidental and unplanned event that could have been prevented had circumstances leading up to the accident been recognized, and acted upon, prior to its occurrence.


IP Explosion: Tuesday’s Latest On What Happened, The Cleanup

International Paper official said Monday that their Cantonment mill experienced significant structural damage to the largest pulp digester as well as the power house during an explosion Sunday night. There were no injuries.

The incident released a mixture of wood fiber, water and pulping liquor into the surrounding community.

Response teams are working with local, state and federal agencies to provide information for those impacted. The company has entered into a “Unified Command” with Escambia County EMA, Escambia County Public Safety, Florida Department of Health, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA.  The command worked Tuesday to clear roadways, assess impacted areas, provide direct outreach to more than 40 residents and implement a remediation plan.

IP has hired contractors to develop and implement plans to clean up and dispose of the discharged material as quickly as possible.  The company said they are providing all necessary support and resources to the local community and residents as the cleanup continues.

A major part of the cleanup Monday focused on Highway 29 from Woodbury Circle to Muscogee Road. Both lanes of the major north-south artery were closed Sunday night following the explosion. The roadway was covered with “black liquor”, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Black liquor is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant, the FHP said in a news release.

The black liquor was very slick on the highway.  Crews worked to spread sand on Highway 29 and then collected a mixture of sand and black liquor from road surface. The roadway was also pressure washed. By about 9 p.m. Monday, over 24 hours after the explosion, the northbound lane of Highway 29 were re-opened as the clean up continued in the southbound lanes. The southbound lanes were open by about 2 a.m. Tuesday.

IP advised that anyone having contact with the discharged material would should wash the affected area for 15 minutes with soap and water. If you are experiencing skin irritation or respiratory issues, see your doctor. Avoid contact with your eyes and mouth.   If the materials have come into contact with your vehicle, please thoroughly wash your vehicle and avoid contact with the material.



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