Three people were injured in a chemical plant blast in east China’s Fujian province Monday, local authorities said.
An explosion hit part of an oil storage facility on Monday at Dragon Aromatics, an independent petrochemical producer in eastern China, Xinhua reported.
The blast happened around 7 p.m. local time at a pumping station for a condensate storage at the plant in Zhangzhou city that produces paraxylene, or PX, a chemical used in making polyester fiber and plastics, state media said.
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PX is normally produced from heavy naphtha, which can be derived from condensate after it has been processed in a splitter. A condensate splitter produces both light and heavy naphtha. The new Dragon plant was designed to produce around one million tonnes a year of light naphtha, which will be marketed to other Chinese petrochemical plants that operate ethylene facilities.
All the three people are being treated at a hospital, the provincial bureau of workplace safety said, without specifying the extent of their injuries.
Some 430 firefighters are battling the fire in Zhangzhou. Windows were broken at a gas station one kilometer (.62 miles) away from the blast site. No one at the gas station was injured or dead, authorities said, adding that all have been evacuated.
Pictures posted by netizens on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter show flames and fumes rising from a plant, with witnesses reporting strong tremor felt as far as 50 kilometers (31 miles) away from the blast.
Dragon Aromatics, owned by Xianglu Group, a Taiwanese petrochemical group, is one of the largest independently-run PX producers in China. The plant is set to expand its condensate splitter by almost 40 percent by end of this month to 5.5 million tonnes a year (137,000 barrels per day), an industry source has said. PX plants are highly controversial projects in China. All the proposed plants have met strong public opposition in recent years.
This is the second accident in 20 months at the same facility that produces paraxylene (PX), an industrial chemical used for making fiber and plastics. In 2013, Dragon Aromatics delayed it’s opening of $3 billion unit due to a small blast. The blast was attributed to leaks at a hydrogen pipeline during testing of a 3.2-million-tpy hydrocracker unit, a company official said at the time. No causalities were reported.
At that time, the company had won 4 million tonnes in import quotas for condensate for 2013, and had secured about five shipments of condensate – a light crude ideal for making petrochemicals – including supplies from Iran and Indonesia, traders said at the time. The plant opening had been by delayed by slower-than-expected construction and problems in gaining environmental clearance.
China’s environmental minister urged during the country’s annual parliamentary session in March that construction of PX projects be scientifically decided and must pass environmental impact assessment.
Story compiled from Reuters and Xinhua reports.