Explosion at reactor caused IQOXE’s blast, death toll rises to three

Jonathan Lopez


LONDON (ICIS)–The explosion at IQOXE’s Tarragona chemicals plant in Spain on 14 January occurred in a reactor, which then ignited a nearby storage tank, a company spokesperson told ICIS.

The death toll has risen to three as IQOXE confirmed on Wednesday night that a worker who was hospitalised had passed away.

The blast caused initial disruption at the Tarragona chemicals park – one of Spain’s largest – but operations were running normally soon after the incident.

IQOXE has the capacity to produce 140,000 tonnes/year of ethylene oxide (EO) at its Tarragona site, among other products.

The company’s facilities remain shut, the spokesperson confirmed.

Market sources have said the accident could have an impact in the wider European EO market, considering the extent of the plant currently shut.

“They have just finished clearing the material still in the storage tanks, but the engineers have not entered the area yet – we still don’t know the cause of the accident,” said the spokesperson.

“What we know is that the fault occurred in the plant’s reactor, and the blast reached a storage tank.”

Producers like BASF, Covestro, and Dow confirmed to ICIS on Tuesday the explosion had not affected their facilities.

ELIX Polymers, which produces acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) in Tarragona, also confirmed its operations were unaffected.

“ELIX Polymers management reports that the company’s activity has not been affected. We continue to maintain contact with the authorities to obtain the latest information about this emergency,” said the company.

Markets sources within the European EO market are monitoring the incident and believe the shutdown at IQOXE’s plants could have an impact in coming weeks.

An EO supplier said that it had registered higher-than-usual requests for material, adding that the accident in Tarragona could be a “very big issue” for the EO market.

ICIS Senior Analyst Moritz Lank added: “We would assume that the 140,000 tonne/year EO unit and the derivative units are down, because of the fire as it would be unsafe to produce EO which is highly explosive.”

The impact on the downstream monoethylene glycol (MEG) market is currently minimal, however.

Delayed imports from the US are arriving this week, along with additional volumes that are reducing supply pressure in the bulk spot market.

Front page picture source: David Oliete/AP/Shutterstock

Additional reporting by Melissa Hurley and Stephanie Wix

Maps by Miguel Rodriguez-Fernandez


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