Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Chemical facility fire in Rockton, IL

From the Associated Press: 
ROCKTON, Ill. (AP) — An industrial firefighting team continued battling a fire Tuesday that has consumed an chemical plant in northern Illinois and forced the evacuation of nearby homes and businesses.

Before pouring fire-fighting foam on the Chemtool plant in Rockton, Louisiana-based U.S. Fire Pumps dug a trench around the facility and installed absorbent booms along the Rock River to prevent residual material from escaping into the village’s source of drinking water.

Rockton fire Chief Kirk Wilson said the smoke plume from the fire has dissipated substantially as a result of U.S. Fire Pumps’ effort

“This is their forte. This is what they do,” Wilson said, adding the company has larger pumps and a larger delivery capability to battle the fire than local fire departments. “At this point in time we have detected no visible runoff into the waterway (that) is just west of Chemtool and to our main waterway.”

If you've seen the pictures, you'll know they're quite dramatic. The CSB views this as a fire event, and not a chemical process safety event. It will be interesting to see what caused it.  


  1. Does "chemical process safety event" mean an incident involving a reactor? I'm not familiar with Chemtool, but I'm guessing that they probably just blend formulated lubricants and aren't actually cooking anything.

    That's been one thing that surprised me when I made the transition from grad school to industry: how few companies actually run reactors and do synthesis, and how many chemical companies are just doing formulation, blending, etc, or how many pharma companies are just taking raw materials synthesized elsewhere and turning them into tablets.

    1. I have a few friends that work at a few Lubrizol locations in Ohio that actually do some true R&D synthesis and there are a few Lubrizol plants that do very large industrial scale synthesis/polymerizations there. I've driven past this Chemtool plant in Rockton once or twice, but I also got the vibe that no large scale synthesis happens there (unless it's maybe a few hundred gallons and relatively minor).

    2. Lubrizol is the remains of the former B.F. Goodrich. Like the oil companies, the big tire makers used to have mighty chemical operations in the old days. I used to work for another company that descended from them, and we had an impressive library of old internal research reports. It was depressing to see how what was once a large, vibrant R&D program had withered down to a couple of people doing incremental work.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20