UpdateSouth Korea’s YNCC shuts No 2 naphtha cracker after fire

13 January 2011 10:13  [Source: ICIS news]

(adds more downstream details in paragraphs 20,21)

By Felicia Loo and Helen Lee

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--South Korea's Yeochun NCC (YNCC) has shut its 578,000 tonnes/year naphtha cracker due to a fire and smoke at one of its nine furnaces, company spokesman and sources said on Thursday.

“It was an unplanned shutdown. There is a fire. It wasn't an explosion,” one source said.

Prior to the outage, the cracker operated at 100%, sources said.

A YNCC spokesperson said its 578,000 tonne/year No 2 cracker was shut at about 16:00 hours South Korea time (07:00 GMT) due to a fire and smoke at one of its nine furnaces. YNCC was investigating the cause.

The other two crackers are operating normally at above 100% capacity, the spokesperson added.

A company official said the cracker outage might take a long time as the furnace was badly affected.

“The situation is getting worse because the mechanisms in the furnace are destroyed and we will need a long time to repair,” he said, adding that all the furnaces were shut down.

He added that there were no injuries but their ethylene tank level was very low and one or two term cargoes for domestic customers might have to be delayed or cancelled.

“The cracker was running at around 1,800 tonnes per day and our tank level is very low therefore we have to delay or cancel one or two term cargoes,” he said. “We don’t know how long the delay might be.”

YNCC, which operates an 857,000 tonne/year cracker and a 465,000 tonne/year cracker on the same site, bought 100,000 tonnes of naphtha for second-half February delivery on Wednesday.

Also going downstream, there were concerns about YNCC’s C3 supply.

Downstream Polymirae's No 4 polypropylene (PP) plant with a 190,000 tonne/year capacity, which receives propylene feedstock from YNCC’s No 2 cracker, was running normally, a Polymirae source said.

"Our No 4 PP plant is still running. We’re checking if YNCC can continue supplying propylene to our plant from its storage,” the Polymirae source added.

Similarly, production at YNCC’s No 2 Yeosu-based aromatics unit was cut back to 75% due to the shutdown of the cracker, said a company source.

YNCC was likely to maintain the operating rate at 75% for this unit in the next few days, he added.

The No 2 facility can produce 120,000 tonnes/year of benzene, 60,000 tonnes/year of toluene and 40,000 tonnes/year of solvent grade xylene.

YNCC was operating its two other aromatics units at 100% at present, the source added.

The No 1 unit at Yeosu can produce 140,000 tonnes/year of benzene, 80,000 tonnes/year of toluene and 50,000 tonnes/year of solvent grade xylene.

The No 3 unit is able to produce 120,000 tonnes/year of benzene, 60,000 tonnes/year of toluene and 40,000 tonnes/year of solvent grade xylene.

Market sources put the loss of propylene at 500 tonnes and said they heard the cracker might be resumed next morning but a company source said they were undecided on the restart.

YNCC’s 170,000 tonne/year MTBE plant was not affected by the fire and was currently running well, sources said.

Asia’s naphtha crack spread would face further downward pressure following the outage of the YNCC cracker, after the spread slumped to a fresh three-month low of $126.60/tonne on Thursday due to voluminous deep-sea imports from the West, traders said.

Additional reporting by Chow Bee Lin, Mahua Chakravarty and Heng Hui

($1 = €0.76)

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By: Felicia Loo

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