A fire broke out yesterday at a petrochemical factory operated by state-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) in Greater Kaohsiung, with a preliminary report indicating there were no casualties, toxic gas emissions and water leaks.
The fire started in a butadiene storage facility at the CPC Kaohsiung Refinery in the early hours of the morning, Lee Shun-chin (李順欽), head of the refinery, said at a press conference.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze after battling it for more than five hours, Lee said, adding that there were no reports of injury or anyone missing, and that there were “no leaks of toxic gas or wastewater” from the petrochemical complex.
The fire, which resulted from a fractured pipe in the factory’s distillation tower, will cause estimated losses of about NT$50 million (US$1.69 million) because the plant has been ordered to shut down for repairs and safety checks, which will take at least one month to complete, Lee said.
Prior to the fire, the factory produced 40 percent of CPC’s total butadiene, an important industrial chemical used as a monomer in the production of synthetic rubber, Lee said.
Earlier in the day, the Greater Kaohsiung Bureau of Environmental Protection slapped the refinery with a fine of NT$1 million for air pollution, the heaviest possible punishment for a violation of the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法).
In addition to the fine, CPC is facing outrage from local residents, who have for many years said the refineries’ waste products have been polluting the environment.
Outside the refinery, Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), who was joined by angry protesters, told CPC to stick to its promise to relocate the aging refinery by 2015.
She also told CPC not to ignore safety at its plants simply because they might be moved soon.
Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) demanded that CPC begin an overall safety check of its Greater Kaohsiung oil refinery.
The refinery “must stop all its operations” before the checks prove that it is safe to operate, Huang said.
“We cannot let people live alongside a ticking time bomb,” she said.
Huang’s call was echoed by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺).
Earlier, CPC chairman Chu Shao-hua (朱少華) issued a public apology for the fire. Pledging to reinforce its efforts to improve safety, Chu added that the accident would not affect the company’s oil prices.