LCY Chemical Corp (李長榮化工) yesterday offered an apology for the suspected gas pipeline explosions in Greater Kaohsiung, but denied charges that it is responsible for the tragedy or is hiding facts from investigators.
The Taipei-based petrochemical product supplier said it wanted to know the causes for the blasts more urgently than anyone, while identifying multiple factors that could have damaged the pipelines and caused leaks.
“We solemnly apologize for the disaster, but cannot comment much on the ongoing investigation,” LCY chairman Bowei Lee (李謀偉) told a news conference.
The lack of clarifications should not be taken as dodging responsibility or withholding trust, Lee said, adding that the pipes could have been affected by design flaws, corrosion and externally inflicted damage.
Given the wide range of potential sources of damage, investigators must unearth all relevant details, he said, adding that state-owned oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) is responsible for designing, constructing and maintaining the pipelines.
Comparing the delivery of widely used industrial fuel and plastics precursor propene to a baseball game, Lee said LCY acted as a catcher and logistics partner China General Terminal & Distribution Corp (CGTD, 華運倉儲) as the pitcher, meaning bilateral consent was necessary for the delivery.
The two sides did not detect pressure level changes — one signal of a potential gas leak — after a 30-minute halt to transfer operations due to abnormal flows on Thursday evening, Lee said.
After a joint inspection, CGTD concluded that there was no leak and the companies resumed delivery, in accordance with standard operating procedures, he said.
“The matter is so complicated that we want to know the truth more urgently than anyone,” Lee said, reiterating that the company would cooperate during the probe and take full responsibility, if necessary.
There is not much else the company can disclose until the investigation comes to an end, he added.
LCY shares tumbled by the daily 7 percent limit to NT$23.25 in Taipei trading on Friday — deeper than the TAIEX’s 0.53 percent drop — with investors seeking — and failing — to dump the stock, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed.
The pressure is set to weigh on LCY shares and the wider TAIEX today, after officials in Kaohsiung called LCY “the likely culprit” in the disaster, Masterlink Securities Investment Advisory Corp (元富投顧) president Liu Kun-hsi (劉坤錫) said by telephone.
“If the probe lends support to the allegations, the loss-making company might go bankrupt, given the huge damage claims,” Liu said.
LCY posted first-quarter pretax losses of NT$425.56 million (US$14.15 million), or losses of NT$0.27 per share, according to its filing with the stock exchange.