Biofuel Facility on Fire in Southern New Mexico

01:57PM May 27, 2014
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A biofuel facility near Anthony in southern New Mexico caught fire Tuesday, prompting an evacuation of an area a half-mile around the plant, authorities said.

Dona Ana County officials activated their emergency operations center and declared a hazardous materials emergency, county spokesman Jess Williams said. He said there was no immediate word of any injuries, and the cause of the fire was not known.

However, Williams said there has been a series of small explosions.

Anthony is on the New Mexico-Texas line, between Las Cruces, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. Fire crews from several agencies were on the scene, along with county sheriff's deputies and New Mexico State Police, Williams said.

According to Williams, the plant is known to have large quantities of methanol and other fuels and chemicals. Those included vegetable oil, hydrochloric acid and bio-diesel fuel, Williams said.

According to U.S. Census data, there are 1,202 residents and 351 houses within the evacuation area, Williams said.

Evacuees were being directed to a high school in the area, while motorists were being advised to avoid the Anthony area, he said.

A satellite photo of the area showed some homes and other buildings in the vicinity but also vacant lots or fields.

The Rio Bio Fuels website says the company began commercially producing bio-diesel fuel from recycled oil from local food processors in 2006. The company said it gets oil from sources that include vegetable oil, crude cottonseed, sunflower, soy, palm and canola.

According to the company website, the plant produces between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons a day.