Another Day, Another 1,300 Pounds Of Benzene Accidentally Released

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

My old man, may he rest in peace, worked all his life for Humble Oil, which later became Exxon, which later became ExxonMobil, and during the course of his long career, the family became vaguely aware that often there were problems with compressors and turbines and other things that hummed in order to make gasoline.

The gasoline-making wasn't going well, we knew, when the phone rang at home and he announced, "I'm not here," which meant whoever answered the phone would have to tell whoever was calling from the plant that, nope, Dad wasn't home.

So now it's 2008 and those compressors and turbines are still breaking down at the world's largest refinery -- the ExxonMobil facility in Baytown.

The latest event over there lasted more than seven hours yesterday when the dadgum gas compressors stopped, resulting in the release of 1,298 pounds of benzene, a known carcinogen, and all sorts of other stuff.

Yes, the benzene (and other pollutants) was released to flares so it can be burned up, but that doesn't burn up all of it, just 99 percent -- allegedly.

Which I guess is why my old man, a smart engineer who was said to know every nut and bolt in that facility, had us live way on the east side of Baytown -- far, far from where the compressors and turbines would stop humming.

-- Steve Olafson

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.