Taiwan’s CPC shuts Kaohsiung cracker after explosion, fire

06 April 2012 06:35 Source:ICIS News

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Kaohsiung, TaiwanSINGAPORE (ICIS)--Taiwan’s state-owned refining firm CPC was forced to shut its 500,000 tonne/year No 5 cracker at its Kaohsiung complex on Friday morning following a pipeline leak that led to an explosion at the site, a company official said.

“We are still attending to the accident site and we have no other details,” the official said.

The explosion, believed to be at a crude butadiene tank at the site, occurred at about 03.00 hours Taiwan time (19:00 GMT), according to sources.

The subsequent fire was extinguished in about two hours and there were no casualties, they said.

An aromatics facility at the site which has a 140,000 tonnes/year benzene unit may have been shut following the outage at the cracker, said a source close to the company.

However, the likely impact of a shutdown at the No 5 aromatics unit would be limited, the source said, adding that the operating situation at the facility is still uncertain.

CPC’s No 3, No 4 and No 6 aromatics units were not directly affected as they are located away form the Kaohsiung complex, the source added.

The CPC official said the No 5 cracker was operating at 90% capacity prior to the outage.

CPC facilities include a 230,000 tonne/year No 3 cracker and a 385,000 tonne/year No 4 cracker in Linyuan in southern Taiwan.

The company runs three paraxylene (PX) units at the site with a total production capacity of 660,000 tonnes/year. CPC also produces 170,000 tonnes/year of OX at the site.

A CPC customer based in Kaohsiung said that it was unclear as to when the company will be able to restart the cracker and the immediate impact to the company’s aromatics production.

“There is a gathering at the Kaohsiung [site] protesting,” the source added, referring to environmental concerns of local residents.

The incident at the Kaohsiung complex is unlikely to have a big impact on the regional butadiene (BD) market as the firm’s business is largely confined domestically, industry sources said.

[The BD extraction unit at the No 5 cracker – capacity is 95,000 tonnes/year.

“And with most of the synthetic rubber plants now either shut or operating at reduced rates, the impact on BD pricing will be limited,” they said.

Major Taiwanese synthetic rubber producer TSRC Corp’s 100,00 tonne/year styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, is currently shut for maintenance for 20 days until 23 April.

Its other 60,000 tonne/year butadiene rubber (BR) plant is operating at a reduced rate of 70-80% because of poor margins.

“Even if the BD price was to go up, we will not accept the higher BD price increase, as the demand for synthetic rubber is very weak and we cannot pass on the costs to our customers,” a company source at TSRC said.

BD is the feedstock for synthetic rubber.

Additional reporting by Helen Lee, Helen Yan, Mahua Chakravarty, Bohan Loh and Quintella Koh

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

By Nurluqman Suratman