LyondellBasell’s manufacturing holdings in Pasadena, Texas, is so vast an enterprise that the single corporate fire brigade covering the three separate plant sites requires two fire chiefs to operate.
One of the two chiefs, or emergency response coordinators, serving LyondellBasell’s Bayport Complex in Pasadena is Co Deborde. The nickname “Co” stands for Cecil O’Neal. A 27-year employee at Bayport Complex, Deborde began as an operator serving on the fire brigade.
“We were all trained in ERT response,” he said. In addition, Deborde became a volunteer with the local municipal department, serving 17 years before retiring.
Deborde is responsible for the Bayport Choate plant, a 280-acre plant that produces propylene oxide, tertiary butyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propylene glycol ethers and tertiary butyl hyderoperoxide. His authority also covers the adjacent plant, Bayport Polymers, which manufactures material used in consumer products such as food containers, medical syringes and carpeting. The site also produces material used in plastic components of cars.
The Choate plant and the Polymers plant share a fence line. The complex’s third site, Bayport Underwood, is located about a mile away. That geographical separation is enough to mandate a two-chief system of management.
Fire protection at the Bayport Underwood site is governed by Deborde’s colleague, Lance Hardcastle. That site produces ethylene oxide, ethylene glycol, glycol ethers and glycol either acetates for use in anti-freeze, brake fluid, dyes, paints, solvents, cleaners and waxes.
Each plant site has its own fire station. Total staffing for the Bayport Complex fire brigade stands at 233 firefighters, Deborde said.
While service on the fire brigade is typically mandatory for new hires to ensure everyone knows how to respond during an emergency, because staffing levels are so high, the site is now going to a voluntary brigade. Mandatory or volunteer, Deborde’s preference is that the brigade members want to serve. Most of the recent additions to the brigade have been younger employees rather than employees nearing retirement, he said.
“The older people have typically stepped up into supervisor roles such as captains and lieutenants,” Deborde said.
The brigade’s apparatus fleet includes three pumpers, three rescue trucks, an ambulance, two hazardous materials trailers, three quick attack trucks and a new dry chemical fire truck. Soon to be added to the fleet is the brigade’s first aerial, a 100-foot Pierce ladder.
Rather than fires, Deborde said the most common incident his responders deal with is the occasional accidental release. He added that the complex hasn’t experienced anything major in that area, though.
Most of the brigade’s time is taken up with more routine work, such as monthly inspection of fire equipment and extinguishers. That work is backed up with an annual inspection of the brigade’s hose, foam and equipment by a third-party contractor.
Of course, as part of Bayport Complex’s health, safety and environment operations group, Deborde is in the loop whenever clarification or interpretation is required in issuing permits for hot work or confined space maintenance.
LyondellBasell also operates a 268,000-barrel-per-day refinery covering nearly 700 acres at the city limits of Houston and Pasadena. This makes the company a major player in Channel Industries Mutual Aid (CIMA), a non-profit organization combining the fire-fighting, rescue, hazardous material handling and emergency medical capabilities of the area’s refining and petrochemical industries.
“We’re probably the third largest company involved with CIMA,” Deborde said. “We provide a ton of apparatus. The refinery maintains a large port facility on the Houston Ship Channel.”
The Bayport Complex brigade participates in CIMA’s annual emergency response drill for its specific zone. The brigade is also well represented at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service week-long industrial fire school conducted in the summer at Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, Texas.
“We usually average about 10 to 12 people during the summer training, and Lance and I attend as instructors,” Deborde said.
The brigade also routinely sends groups of 30 firefighters to Brayton for annual shift training specifically supervised by brigade management, he said.
“That’s a real test for those who want to be here,” Deborde said. “It’s hard to come off a graveyard shift, then have to immediately start training in daylight hours for three days straight. But they don’t complain about it.”