Processing Magazine

Evacuations ordered following New Mexico biofuel plant explosions

May 28, 2014
Hazmat evacuation area, Anthony, N.M. <photocredit>Source: Dona Ana County</photocredit>

About 1,200 residents in Dona Ana County, New Mexico, were ordered to evacuate on May 27 after a large fire erupted at a biofuel facility in the area.

Fire crews responded to a major structure fire at Rio Valley Biofuel's facilty shortly after 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Several small explosions were also recorded.

According to Dona Ana County's website, the cause of the fire is unknown. The facility is known to have large quantities of methanol, glycerin and sodium methylate, as well as vegetable oil, hydrochloric acid and bio-diesel fuel.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation brought in heavy equipment to build an earthen dam to contain all water on the site, in the event chemicals were released during the firefighting stage of operations.

The evacuation order was lifted later in the day, but major roads remained closed.

No injuries were reported.

Located in Anthony, New Mexico, Rio Valley Biofuels is New Mexico's first and one of the Southwest's only commercial producers of biofuels, the company says. It began commercially producing biodiesel in July 2006 using recycled oil from local food processors. Feedstocks include a large variety of lipid oil sources including used vegetable oil, crude cottonseed, tallow, sunflower, canola, soy, palm and a number of others.