Mailiao refinery unit ordered to cease operations after fire

Photo courtesy of the local fire brigade.

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Ministry of Labor (MOL) ordered a residue desulphuriser (RDS) unit at Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s (FPCC) Mailiao industrial complex in Yunlin County to cease operations after a fire at the unit Wednesday morning.

At around 9 a.m., there was an explosion at the No. 2 RDS unit, followed by a blaze, with thick smoke seen coming from the plant. Three people reportedly suffered minor injuries.

The unit has been shut down, FPCC said in a press release, noting that the fire was caused by an equipment glitch. The company has activated its emergency response mechanism and is investigating the incident, it said.

Wan Jung-fu (萬榮富), director of a regional occupational safety center under the MOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the center sent personnel to inspect the fire site and found a leak in a pump shaft seal, resulting in the discharge of ethylene glycol which started the initial fire.

“A worker was so nervous when the fire started that he turned off the pump, which caused a build up in hydrogen that eventually caused the explosion,” Wan said.

He added that the blaze that followed the explosion was not extinguished until 2:37 p.m.

As the site remains too hot to inspect fully, it will not be possible to determine whether there were any illegal or unsafe operations there until it cools down.

“We have ordered the cessation of operations on the production line and will pursue liability later,” Wan said.

Meanwhile, Yunlin County government fined FPCC NT$5 million (US$169,500) for air pollution, based on the provisions of the Air Pollution Control Act. It also instructed the company to present a report into the incident within three days.