Formosa Plastics petrochemical complex in Yunlin hit by fire


TAIPEI, Taiwan — A blaze broke out at a bisphenol A (BPA) plant in the Formosa Plastics Group’s petrochemical complex in Yunlin County early Thursday morning, but no casualties were reported.

The fire erupted at around 2:40 a.m. but was extinguished by 3:20 a.m. because of its small scale, the Yunlin County Fire-Fighting Department said.

The blaze only caused limited damage, but the factory’s operations have been partially suspended to conduct safety checks, said Wu Chia-chau, the president of Nan Ya Plastics Corp., which runs the group’s BPA business.

Wu said the company will apply to resume production once supervisory agencies have completed a safety inspection.

The fire was just the latest in a series of blazes that have disrupted the complex in Mailiao Township and embarrassed the plastics conglomerate since July 2011.

The repeated fires have triggered public outcries over the facility’s safety record and the amount of pollution it generates, prompting the group to improve maintenance and overhaul some of the equipment in the complex.

A Nan Ya Plastics spokesman said preliminary indications were that the fire started on the factory’s second floor, where BPA is crystallized in a water-based solvent.

Sparks may have erupted in the system’s BPA recycling tank, most likely because of an electrical short circuit because there were no fire sources in the tank itself, according to the spokesman, who said the investigation into the fire would continue to pinpoint its cause.

The spokesman stressed that the blaze posed no environmental hazards, with no abnormalities detected in air quality readings over the petrochemical complex during and after the blaze.

Wu, Nan Ya Plastics’ president, did not expect the temporary shutdown to affect the company’s deliveries of bisphenol A because it has inventory of the chemical.

Nan Ya operates four BPA factories in the Mailiao complex, and the other three were unaffected by the fire, he said. The one hit by the blaze has a capacity of 90,000 tons of BPA per year, or about 247 tons per day, according to the company. Wu declined to estimate how much the plant’s shutdown will cost Nan Ya Plastics, but based on BPA’s current market price of US$1,900 per metric ton and the factory’s daily output of 247 tons, Nan Ya stands to lose US$469,300 (NT$13.8 million) in production per day. The chemical is used primarily in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins and can be found in some food and drink packaging and containers.