Stolthaven sues ITC over 2019 Deer Park fire

US terminal Stolthaven Houston is suing Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) for US$264,561.10 (€218,350) in damages following the large fire at ITC’s 13.1 million bbl Deer Park terminal in March 2019.

The Deer Park fire began on 17 March 2019 in chemical storage tanks containing naphtha following a naphtha leak and spread to others. ITC had not equipped the Deer Park Facility with a fixed gas detection system, so was not warned of the naphtha release, and also had not installed emergency or remotely operated isolation valves, so could not control the release. The fire lasted for almost four days before being extinguished, and led to the collapse of 11 of the 15 affected tanks. No injuries were reported but an estimated 470,000–523,000 of barrels of oil and chemical products were spilled into the Tucker Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel, which closed between 22 March and 13 April 2019.

In a court filing with the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Stolthaven claims that the closure of the Houston Ship Channel disrupted its operations, including backing up railcars, and that the fumes and smoke impaired the use of its terminal. The company says it incurred ‘substantial expenses’ ensuring the safety of its employees, property and operations. Stolthaven also assisted ITC during the incident, and the medical monitoring and testing of its firefighting employees were at its own cost.

Stolthaven’s response was under the Channel Industries Mutual Aid (CIMA) bylaws, and the filing says that under CIMA, it is entitled to reimbursement, but ITC has not responded to the company’s claims. It says that as the incident was caused by ITC’s negligence, ITC is liable to pay.

Stolthaven has also claimed under the Oil Pollution Act, which imposes liability on a ‘responsible party for a . . . vessel or a facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses a substantial threat of a discharge of oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.’ As the ‘responsible party’, ITC is liable to pay damages incurred by Stolthaven, but has not responded to claims.

A Stolthaven spokesperson tells Tank Storage Magazine: ‘Stolthaven Terminals can confirm that it has commenced proceedings to recover damages from ITC in connection with a fire at ITC’s Houston site on March 17, 2019. As this is an ongoing legal matter we are unable to comment further.’

ITC has not commented on the matter.

Stolthaven is not the first company to sue ITC for damages as a result of the fire. In June 2020, Rio Energy International, Gunvor USA and Texas Aromatics also launched cases against ITC, with Rio Energy claiming US$2.2m, Gunvor claiming US$433,000 and Texas Aromatics claiming US$381,000, also under the Oil Pollution Act.

Source: Tank Storage Magazine

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