The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday asked Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, 台塑集團) to suspend four more pressure tanks at its petrochemical complex in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County, after two tanks were shut after a fire on July 30, but stopped short of suspending the group’s operations at the complex.
Use of the four tanks by Formosa Petrochemical Corp (台塑) and Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp (台灣化纖) must be halted by early next month for safety inspections because they are prone to explosion, the ministry said in a statement.
The inspections are expected to be completed by the end of this month at the earliest and may last until the end of October, the ministry said.
The ministry’s announcement came after a Mailiao special task force organized by the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) met for a second time to discuss safety issues at the complex, which has had seven fires in the past year.
The ministry did not reach a conclusion about shutting FPG’s operations at the Mailiao complex, although the Yunlin County Government said earlier it wanted operations to be halted in phases sooner rather than later. Instead, the ministry said the special task force would meet again on Aug. 31 to review Formosa’s plans.
FPG representatives, led by vice chairwoman Susan Wang (王瑞華), took a safety and risk assessment of the Mailiao complex conducted by the Lloyd’s Register Group to yesterday’s meeting. FPG is considering using the UK-based certification institution as a third-party organization to provide an unbiased review of its safety improvements.
The ministry said it had agreed in principle with FPG about the group’s plan to commission Lloyd’s Register to undertake the safety assessment. However, the ministry said it wanted the UK company to ask a local counterpart to join the assessment and investigation process to gain a better understanding of Taiwan as well as FPG’s corporate culture.
The spate of fires at the complex forced Formosa Petrochemical Corp (台塑石化) to shut its oil refineries amid mounting concern about its safety and crisis management, prompting Formosa Petrochemical chairman Wilfred Wang (王文潮) and president Su Chi-yi (蘇啟邑) to step down on July 30.