AN investigation is under way after a massive
explosion at a chemical plant.
The blast happened at the Terra Nitrogen (UK) Limited site
in an industrial area off Haverton Hill Road, Billingham,
Teesside, at 12.15am.
Residents reported hearing the huge blast and seeing a
massive ball of flame.
The explosion caused a fire involving mixed gases including
hydrogen, nitrogen and a small amount of ammonia and prompted
the police to declare a major emergency.
Firefighters and ambulance crews were called to the scene
and by 2.45am the blaze had been put out.
Two people working at the site were treated for cuts and
Nearby roads were closed and residents were advised to
keep their windows and doors shut as a precaution.
The plant, which produces ammonia and was previously
owned by ICI, was shut down.
The cause of the blast is not clear but police said an
investigation would be carried out by the Health and Safety
Executive and the Environment Agency.
Joanne Twaits, from Billingham, who said she lived opposite
the site in New Road, said: “There was a huge gush
of fire and an astonishing thud.
"It woke my two young children and shook the house
as I looked out my window.”
Tom Neale in Marske, about 20 miles away, said: “Many
people I know said they saw a flash of yellow light.”
Supt Ian Richards of Cleveland Police said the emergency
services had the situation under control in a relatively
short period of time.
He said: “Fortunately what was initially perceived
as a major incident was quickly dealt with.
“The emergency services and petrochemical industry
on Teesside regularly exercise to ensure such incidents
can be dealt with effectively.
“Their expertise and training to deal with such situations
and protect the public is nationally recognised.”
He added that the closed roads had been reopened and that
there were no “off-site implications” from the
A Terra Nitrogen UK spokesman said the firm had launched
an investigation into the incident which would involve the
He said: “The incident happened on a pipe at the
plant and led to a fire
involving mixed gases including hydrogen, nitrogen and a
small amount of ammonia which was extinguished automatically
as the pipe depressurised.
“In line with the plant’s emergency procedures,
the county police and fire brigade attended the scene working
in partnership with the on-site emergency services. The
plant was safely shut down.”
Terra Nitrogen is the UK’s largest manufacturer of
nitrogen products used extensively in the chemical industry
The company employs around 400 people in the UK which includes
250 people on Teesside.