UpdatePETRONAS shuts Malaysia methanol No 1 plant after ship blast

26 July 2012 09:19  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nurluqman Suratman

Petronas towersSINGAPORE (ICIS)--PETRONAS Chemicals Group (PCG) shut its 660,000 tonne/year methanol (PML) 1 unit in Labuan, Malaysia, on Thursday after a fire erupted at a chemical tanker at a nearby port early in the day, a company spokesperson said.

“The No 1 unit was shut down as a precautionary measure,” the spokesperson from PCG said, adding that the firm’s other 1.7m tonne/year methanol Labuan (PML) 2 unit is running normally, without providing further details.

The two methanol units are operated by PETRONAS Methanol (Labuan), a subsidiary of PCG, which is a unit of state-owned Malaysian energy major PETRONAS.

At 2:30 Malaysia time (18:30 GMT) on Thursday, a chemical tanker owned by PETRONAS subsidiary MISC was hit by a fire.

The 37,961 deadweight-tonne tanker vessel was loaded with 15,000 tonnes of methanol belonging to Mitsui from Al-Jubail in Saudi Arabia when the incident occurred, according to a shipping source.

The Bunga Alpinia was berthed in Labuan to load a methanol cargo from PCG, and was bound for South China, the source said.

PCG chartered the vessel for a 15,000-tonne methanol cargo to be delivered to three customers in China, the shipping source said.

Some 6,000 tonnes of methanol had been loaded on the tanker when lightning struck the vessel twice early on Thursday, causing the blast and fire.

“Right now, there is a possibility that the vessel will sink and the loading arm at the jetty is gone,” the shipping source said, adding that the jetty is for the 660,000 tonne/year methanol (PML) 1 unit.

“PML 1 is shut down until further notice, while the PML 2…unit is still running with [its] jetty operating,” the source added.
Meanwhile, five of the 29 crewmembers of the tanker are still missing, according to MISC.

“We are undertaking all necessary actions to ensure the safety of all personnel involved,” PCG said in a statement, adding that an investigation will be carried out in due course.

Additional reporting by Hazel Kumari and Liu Xin

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections
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By: Nurluqman Suratman

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