Authorities: Explosion, fire, rock plant; no one injured

Two explosions and a fire rocked a natural gas plant in southern Mississippi, where flames shot out of the building for hours and one of the blasts could be felt up to 10 miles away, authorities said.

The first explosion occurred at 11:30 p.m. Monday and was followed by a larger explosion minutes later, said Jackson County Emergency Management Director Early Etheridge.

“The two workers on duty were in a safe room at the time of the two explosions and were not injured,” Etheridge said. He said the plant’s processing area was heavily damaged.

The plant, located near Pascagoula, had just been sold to minority owner Enterprise Products Partner L.P. from majority owner BP. Enterprise had owned 40 per cent and BP 60 per cent, said company spokesman Rick Rainey. He said officials would start an investigation into what caused the explosions, but he did not know how long the plant would be offline.

The Houston-based company said in a statement that the fire was restricted to inside the facility. “The situation is under control and the plant has been shut down,” the company said.

The Mississippi plant removes the liquid from natural gas and ships it to utilities along the East Coast, Rainey said. The liquid is then sent to other plants where propane and butane are produced.

The plant has a capacity of 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, but the plant was nowhere near its capacity, he said.