Deaths confirmed in Unipetrol Czech Republic blast

22 March 2018 17:35 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--An explosion at Unipetrol’s Kralupy nad Vltavou, Czech Republic, plant has left multiple people dead, the CEO of the oil and chemicals producer said on Thursday.

A number of supply company employees died in the blast, according to Unipetrol CEO Krzysztof Zdziarski.

“We would like to express our deep condolence to the deceased employees of our supply companies and their relatives whose lives have been taken during this unfortunate incident,” Zdiarski.

The incident was unrelated to the planned turnaround at the refinery, which had been expected to start on 27 March. Six people were killed in the explosion, according to early reports from local media.

"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,” Unipetrol said in a statement immediately following the incident.

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.

Picture source: Unipetrol

(Update re-leads, adds CEO commentary)

Additional reporting by Will Conroy

By Tom Brown