Tank fire sends black smoke plume across Houston

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A storage tank fire on the Houston Ship Channel sent a plume of black smoke across the eastern half of the city on Sunday forcing residents in the suburb of Deer Park, Texas, to remain indoors.

A giant storage tank containing volatile naphtha at Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) Deer Park site continued to burn six hours after the blaze broke out at about 10:30 a.m. local time (1530 GMT).

Ships were continuing to move along the ship channel which connects refineries and chemical plants in Houston and Texas City, Texas, with the Gulf of Mexico. The only restriction on shipping was an order from the U.S. Coast Guard not to dock at ITC or an adjoining terminal.

The fire was not affecting operations at the nearby Royal Dutch Shell Plc joint-venture refinery in Deer Park, according to Shell spokesman Ray Fisher.

ITC Vice President Alice Richardson said the company was attempting to gain control over the fire by using fire-suppressing foam.

"We're fighting this fire defensively to keep it contained to this tank," Richardson told a news conference.

The burning tank is surrounded by several other storage tanks within a spill containment dike.

Naphtha derived from refining crude oil is most often used to create reformates which boost octane in gasoline.



(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Daniel Wallis)