Prague - Central European oil refiner and polymers producer Unipetrol has reopened the distribution terminal at its refinery in Kralupy nad Vltavou, Czech Republic days after an explosion left six workers dead and two badly injured.
The blast victims, employed by external contractors, were cleaning an empty storage tank at the terminal next to the refinery last 22 March the explosion damaged the tank, according to Unipetrol, the country’s biggest petchems group.
Czech police launched an immediate on-site investigation and experts from Unipetrol are undertaking a separate inquiry into the causes of the incident. The firm reported Monday (26/3) the rest of the fuel distribution unit was undamaged and functioning.
Prague-based Unipetrol stressed the work was unconnected with a two month maintenance shutdown due to start at the refinery this week. It remained unaffected by the incident and the routine production shutdown began, as planned on 27 March.
The deadly blast is the latest of a series of incidents at Unipetrol operations in the Czech Republic in recent years.
The company, part of Poland’s PKN Orlen oil group, is still feeling the financial repercussions of the most catastrophic and costly accident. In August 2015, a propylene explosion and fire crippled the 544,000tpa ethylene steam cracker, damaging the main petrochemical plant at Litvínov. The plant was closed for months and the cracker only restarted over a year later.
In May 2016, another blast badly damaged the fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCC) at the Kralupy nad Vltavou refinery leading to an extended five month maintenance shutdown.
Then, in December 2017, the Litvínov petrochemicals plant closed down for several weeks after a fire in the Partial Oxidation Unit (POX) unit. This led to almost a month of plant closure, production slowdown and refinery output reduction.
After the latest incident, Unipetrol board chairman Krzysztof Zdziarski made clear management would tighten safety measures. “We have asked our contracting companies to re-train their employees. We have also intensified continuous inspections of compliance with safety and labour regulations,” he stated.
Polish chemicals group Synthos, stressed the blast had not occurred at its butadiene, polystyrene and synthetic rubber offshoot Synthos Kralupy also located in Kralupy nad Vltavou.