UpdateMitsui Chem shuts all Iwakuni-Ohtake units after Sunday blast

23 April 2012 05:55  [Source: ICIS news]

(adds details with recasts throughout)

By Tomomi Yokomura

Mitsui ChemicalTOKYO (ICIS)--Japanese producer Mitsui Chemicals has shut production at all its facilities at Iwakuni-Ohtake Works in Yamaguchi prefecture following Sunday’s blast at the site that killed a 22-year-old worker and injured 21 others, a company official said on Monday.

The first blast that ignited a fire occurred at 02:15 Japan time on Sunday at a unit that produces 7,600 tonnes/year of resorcinol, which is an adhesive for wood and automotive tyres, Mitsui Chemicals said in an official statement released on Sunday.

A second explosion occurred at a tank of the resorcinol plant at 08:05 local time. The resulting fire spread to the adjacent cymene plant and a utility piping rack, and raged on throughout the day, until it was put under control at 17:15 local time on Sunday.

Local authorities are investigating the cause of the blasts, which damaged the windows and roofs of 14 plants at the site, according to Mitsui Chemicals.

Among the plants that were shut are Mitsui Chemicals’ 400,000 tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) unit and its 145,000 tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plants, the company official said.

“We are investigating the extent of the damage but it seems limited at this point in time,” said another company source, adding that no restart date has been set for the PTA facility.

“We are also considering if a force majeure needs to be declared,” he added.

Mitsui Chemicals’ 30,000 tonne/year methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) plant at the site was also taken off line following Sunday’s blasts.

“Because of the seriousness of the matter, [Mitsui Chemicals] will not be able to restart the plant until after they receive government approval to do so,” said a market source.

Mitsui Chemicals is the largest of three MIBK makers in Japan with a nameplate capacity of 30,000 tonnes/year.

MIBK, which is derived from acetone, is used as a solvent for industrial paints and thinners, and to produce rubber chemicals.

“It is still difficult to say how long it will take until we can restart [the plants]. We need to investigate the cause [of the explosions] first,” said the first company official.

Additional reporting by Bohan Loh and Trisha Huang

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections

By: Tomomi Yokomura
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