(KPLC) - The "decomp" at Westlake Chemical Plant around 10:13 p.m. Wednesday night was a controlled emergency pressure release of ethylene, which when it hits the atmosphere, ignites in a quick flash and creates a loud boom.
That quick flash and boom were seen and heard by many around Southwest Louisiana and East Texas.
But what is ethylene? Dr. Kiran Boggavarapu, associate professor and head of the McNeese State University Department of Chemistry and Physics, says that it is a chemical that contains two elements: carbon and hydrogen. It has two carbon atoms and four hydrogen atoms and "it's like the gasoline you put in your car, but is it much lighter. It is like propane's little sister."
Ethylene is also produced naturally. Apple's release the chemical as they ripen.
He also added that those who live around the plants shouldn't be worried because once the chemical, in gas form, hits the atmosphere, it is carried away with the wind. In small doses, it is virtually harmless. In gas form, it dissipates much easier and quicker.
According to Westlake Chemical's website, ethylene is essential in producing higher value-added chemicals to make plastic products such as medical containers and toys. Westlake Chemical official Joe Andrepont says that the chemicals produced in part by ethylene at the Plant are safe and non-toxic.