UpdateThailand's Bangkok Synthetics fire kills 11, injures 141

07 May 2012 09:21  [Source: ICIS news]

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Map Ta Phut, ThailandSINGAPORE (ICIS)--A fire that broke out at a Bangkok Synthetics’ (BST) facility at Map Ta Phut in Thailand’s Rayong province over the weekend killed at least 11 people and injured 141 more, the Thai producer said on Monday.

The blaze broke out at toluene vessel inside its facility at around 15:20 hours local time (08:20 GMT) on 5 May, the company said in a statement posted on its website.

The fire was under control at around 18:00 hours local time, it said.

Thailand’s industry minister Pongsvas Svasti has ordered the closure of the BST unit, which is operated by its BST Elastomers unit, according to Thai newspaper the Bangkok Post.

BST’s units in Map Ta Phut can produce 140,000 tonnes/year of butadiene (BD), 55,000 tonnes/year of MTBE, 55,000 tonnes/year of butane LPG, 40,000 tonnes/year of C4 raffinate (isobutylene) and 35,000 tonnes/year of butene-1, according to the company's website.

“At the time of the incident, during a heavy storm, the facility was in full shut down and the process had been previously cleaned using toluene to dry out moisture,” the company said.

“This is the last step in the shutdown procedure during a product grade switching process,” it added.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, BST said.

Toluene is a solvent used in synthetic rubber production and it is not classified as toxic or carcinogenic, according to the firm.

“The level of toluene released from this incident is not harmful and not carcinogenic but can cause irritation and rash,” BST said.

The closure of the BST facility has not affected paraxylene (PX) and purified terephthalic acid (PTA) producers at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, with Indorama Petrochem Ltd running its 700,000 tonne/year PTA unit, which is a stone-throw away from the BST plant, normally on Monday.

A source from PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC), meanwhile, said operations at its PX units in Map Ta Phut were unaffected by the explosion as its facilities are not located within close proximity from the blast site.

PTTGC operates two PX units in Map Ta Phut with a combined nameplate capacity of 1.17m tonnes/year.

With additional reporting by Bohan Loh

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

By: Nurluqman Suratman

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