Top Stories
Top Stories

UPDATE 3-Exxon fighting fire at Baytown, Texas, refinery and chemical complex

(Adds local firefighters on scene, gasoline prices rising)

HOUSTON, July 31 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp said it was fighting a fire that erupted on Wednesday at its 560,000 barrels per day Baytown, Texas, refining and chemical plant complex.

The fire, which was being fought by the company's employees, sent black smoke into the air over the complex in the Houston suburb. Firefighters and equipment from the city entered the plant at midday as smoke and flames continued to billow, a Reuters eyewitness at the scene said.

Baytown fire department referred questions to Exxon.

Residents around the plant were told to shelter in place, according to a Baytown emergency management official. The city of 75,000 people is located about 30 miles (48 km) east of Houston.

The company said in a tweet it was in the process of accounting for employees at the site and was conducting air quality monitoring inside the facility. An Exxon spokesman could not be reached for immediate comment on any injuries.

The Baytown facility employs about 7,000 people among its four manufacturing sites and covers 3,400 acres (13.8 square kilometers). It sits along the Houston Ship Channel, the nation's largest energy port.

Aerial footage showed flames and heavy smoke emanating from a large column at the facility, which Exxon identified as part of its production of olefins, a component of plastic. Emergency vehicles and people were massing around the edge of the complex.

Exxon last year completed the construction of a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker at the Baytown Olefins Plant. The cracker can produce 1.5 million tons per year, and provides feedstock to two other production lines at its Mont Belvieu, Texas, plastics plant.

Spot prices for U.S. Gulf Coast CBOB gasoline rose on Wednesday following news of the fire, traders said. (Reporting by Erwin Seba Editing by Marguerita Choy)