A blaze broke out at a bisphenol A (BPA) plant in the Formosa Plastics Group’s (台塑集團) petrochemical complex in Yunlin County early yesterday morning, but no casualties were reported.
The fire erupted at about 2:40am, but was extinguished by 3:20am, the Yunlin County Fire Department said.
The blaze caused limited damage, but the factory’s operations have been partially suspended to conduct safety checks, said Wu Chia-chau (吳嘉昭), the president of Nan Ya Plastics Corp (南亞塑膠), which runs the group’s BPA business.
Wu said the company would 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 (麥寮) 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 yesterday’s 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.
The spokesman said the blaze posed no environmental hazards, with no abnormalities detected in air quality readings over the petrochemical complex during and after the blaze.
Wu 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 81,646 tonnes of BPA per year, or about 224 tonnes 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 tonne and the factory’s daily output, Nan Ya stands to lose US$469,300 in production per day.
BPA is used primarily in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins and can be found in some food and drink packaging and containers.