“The combination of simultaneous blockages caused a higher-than-usual buildup of pressure of coke oven gas in the manifold on the south side of the facility’s coke oven battery. The buildup… resulted in a disk rupture on a manifold underneath the coke oven battery at approximately 11:50 a.m. ... One minute later, the coke oven gas in the confined area underneath the battery combusted, resulting in an explosion.”
This set off a "small fire" which was extinguished by personnel on-site using steam and water in about 12 minutes. During this time emergency responders were apparently blocked from entering the property. The company reported that damage was limited to some equipment and a few "non-structural" brick wall. This is a variance with their initial report of "no damage" issued after the incident.
Previously reported in the Buffalo News on 1/31 "All six town and Village of Kenmore fire companies responded to the River Road plant in the town’s heavy-industry corridor. Ellwood Fire Chief Gary Stuff said he was told by company personnel that the pressure release destroyed a brick wall in the plant. ...
Stuff, of the Ellwood department, said fire officials were met at the plant’s guard shack by company personnel, who explained the cause of the blast. Stuff and representatives from the town Police and Building departments returned to the plant at about 1 p.m. due to the volume of calls police received and were met again at the guard shack."
Investigative Post reports that they obtained records which "revealed that Tonawanda Coke in at least one instance told emergency responders who showed up at the plant that they had not felt the explosion that had been reported by neighbors.
'At this time, Tonawanda Coke says normal operations,” a first responder said in radio communication. “They did not feel anything. They’ve got somebody coming up to talk to me.'"
The statement also repeated that no one was injured. However via WGRZ, Investigative Post reports that "two sources confirmed to Environmental Reporter Dan Telvock that at least one person was hurt at the plant, with minor burns. That conflicts with the press release from Tonawanda Coke that says 'no one was hurt.'"
According to the WGRZ and the Investigative Post, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reported to be looking into the incident and the company has indicated that it has submitted detailed reports about the explosion to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Emergency Response Committee, local fire officials and OSHA.
News sources report that Tonawanda Coke says it has already taken steps to prevent similar incidents by upgrading the current instrument air supply system and other systems. The company continues to refuse requests for interviews.