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Taiwan to probe safety of chemical pipelines after recent blasts

08.04.2014  |  HP News Services

Rescuers continue to comb through debris for survivors as Taiwan’s No. 2 city put responsibility for the disaster on a chemicals group that piped propylene gas underground.

Keywords:

By ADELA LIN
Bloomberg

Taiwan will review its network of thousands of kilometers of underground pipelines after preliminary investigations indicated that leaks from a chemical company’s system may have caused a series of explosions that killed at least 28 people.

“The central government will help local branches build a thorough data bank to serve as base for safety checks in the future,” said Woody Duh, deputy minister of economic affairs. An initial meeting with petrochemical companies is scheduled today.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who visited hospitalized victims and the families of the deceased, ordered continued rescue efforts, investigations and a review of underground pipelines. At least 300 were injured in blasts in the southern city of Kaohsiung around midnight of July 31.

Rescuers continue to comb through debris for survivors as Taiwan’s second-biggest city pinned responsibility for the disaster on a company that piped gas underground. Two firefighters were unaccounted for and efforts to find them were continuing, said National Fire Agency deputy director Chen Wen-long.

Calling this the deadliest industrial accident in Taiwan’s history, Duh said the municipal government ordered four petrochemical pipelines running through the area shut down while the investigation is carried out.

Pipeline Networks

While government officials couldn’t provide an estimate of the full extent of pipeline networks laid throughout Taiwan, the island’s largest refiner CPC Corp. alone deploys 3,480 kilometers (2,160 miles) of lines transporting oil products, 2,900 kilometers for natural gas and 700 kilometers for petrochemicals, Chang Ray-chung, a spokesman, said by phone today.

Taipei-based LCY Chemical Corp. failed to stop sending propylene, a gas used in the production of plastic and fabrics, through pipelines beneath the city of Kaohsiung, even after residents complained of noxious fumes emerging from the streets and scientific readings showed potential leakage, Kaohsiung’s government alleged in a statement released yesterday.

A pipeline channeling propylene between China General Terminal & Distribution Corp. and LCY Chemical facilities showed a drop in pressure at 8:43 p.m. on July 31, Kaohsiung’s government said in the statement. LCY Chemical didn’t ask China General to stop delivery immediately nor report to the environmental protection bureau, allowing a large amount of propylene to leak for three hours, it said.

‘We Want to Know’

LCY Chemical isn’t allowed to comment before prosecutors release reports, Chairman Bowei Lee said on a live broadcast on Next TV. “We want to know what happened more than anyone,” Lee said, without disclosing if his company is linked to the leaks.

The chemicals maker said earlier its pipeline was located about 10 meters (33 feet) away from the explosion sites.

The blasts affected 32,968 households and 83,819 people, cutting gas supplies to about 23,600 households, according to Taiwan’s cabinet. More than 2,000 military servicemen were dispatched to assist with the rescue.

Factory operations at Asia Polymer Corp., USI Corp., and China General Plastics Corp. remained normal as only the underground piping systems in areas affected by the explosions were halted, the companies said in stock exchange filings.

China Petrochemical Development Corp. will increase ground transport of materials and will cut production for a week. Revenue will be reduced by NT$36 million ($1.2 million), it said in a statement to the exchange. LCY’s production reduction is anticipated to last for two weeks, cutting sales by NT$230 million, the chemicals company said.



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Hirak Dutta
08.08.2014

Well it is appreciated that pipeline transportation is eco-friendly and cheap. But explosion in pipelines could be terrible as on many occasions we have seen multiple fatality. To my mind, some common reasons for such failure could be attributed to (a) poor repair & maintenance techniques(b) improper pigging (c) unauthorized structures in ROU (d) not analyzing the pig residue (e) not injecting corrosion inhibitors in wet services (f) not acting on IPS reports in time etc. The past few accidents in pipeline operation must be taken as Wake-up Call.

EJAZ UL HAQUE
08.06.2014

In the developing countries it will be inevitable as mostly people tend to cluster homes around industrial areas. The area of greater concerns is the knowledgeable industrial community which sits on aging assets without programs of inspections and repairs to save a few more bucks. Endangering the communities living in the vicinity of their assets.

Raj Sreenevasan
08.05.2014

Sethu,
Common methods of internal pipeline inspection include intelligent pigs and remotely operated inspection vehicles (miniature submarines) that cab navigate and map thickness of pipes and corroded areas. However these inspections are costly and unless mandated by regulations, companies will usually postpone them (cost pressures). Some of the toughest pipeline regulations exist in Germany and (surprise, surprise) New Zealand. Australia has very good pipeline safety record for its natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines.

Saumya Chakrabarti
08.05.2014

The safety aspects of countries Taiwan ,China are in severely bad shape. People take their example by seeing the superficial scenario. Otherwise they are in worst state.

N SETHURATHINAM
08.05.2014

How do we carry out internal inspection of these Pipelines? Any proven method.These kind of disasters keep happening across the world.

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