Explosion occurs at Unipetrol Czech Republic site

22 March 2018 13:20 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--An explosion has occurred at Unipetrol's plant in Kralupy nad Vltavou, Czech Republic, the company said on Thursday.

Six people are reported to have died in the disaster, after an explosion that occured at a storage tank unit in the site's refinery, according to the company.

"Extraordinary event at the refinery in Kralupy nad Vltavou," the company said in a statement. "There was an explosion at the storage tank without a subsequent fire in the Kralupy refinery. The situation is under control and there is no other danger. There was no leakage of dangerous substances.”

The Kralupy site includes a joint venture between Unipetrol and  Synthos, but the Poland-headquartered rubber producer denied that the explosion took place at its operations on the site, after early reports named the company as the source of the explosion.

“Synthos states that the event did not occur in the complex belonging to Synthos Kralupy at the industrial site in Kralupy nad Vltavou," the company said in a statement. The joint venture site comprises a butadiene (BD) extraction unit with polybutadiene rubber (PBR) and styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) facilities

Emergency services attending the incident said others were seriously injured.

"This is terrible news...the company is in shock,"  a market source told ICIS news.

Czech news server idnes.cz quoted deputy mayor of Kralupy Libor Lesak as saying the explosion occurred after an electrical short circuit in an empty tank ignited gas., as it was his information being cleaned by a new contractor.

Central Bohemia Rescue Services said five ground fire crews and rescue helicopters were dispatched to the site.

It said two people were known to be seriously injured, one with second degree burns to 10% of the body and the other with very severe facial injuries.

Czech prime minister Andrej Babis, a self-made billionaire who founded and owns the Agrofert agrochemicals holding, tweeted his sympathies, saying: “While at a meeting with the NATO secretary general in Brussels I have just now read a tragic report of six dead at a chemical site in Kralupy nad Vltavou. I want to express my deep sympathies to the bereaved.”

Unipetrol has in the past year been recovering profitability and customers following a late 2015 explosion that destroyed its 545,000 tonne/year steam cracker at the company’s main petrochemical production site in Litvinov and a May 2016 blast at its fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) unit in Kralupy.

In early February, Unipetrol announced it planned to start a major turnaround at the Kralupy production site on March 21. The start-date for the turnaround was later updated to March 27. It was scheduled to run until May 9 and will include a 60,000 tonne/year unit that produces polymer-grade propylene.

Picture source: Unipetrol

By Will Conroy