Seasons Greetings From Manufacturing Viewpoint

Manufacturing Viewpoint will be taking a short break during the holidays and will return in early January.

We wish all of our readers and contributors a happy Christmas and a happy and successful new year 2010.


BP To Appeal New Texas City Damages Award

photo : BP

BP is set to appeal a $100M award for safety infringements at its Texas City refinery. The Texas Court made its ruling on Friday 18th December and ordered BP to make payments to ten workers after an incident in April 2007 that involved an unplanned release of toxic chemicals at the site.

The affected workers claimed that breathing in benzene and other harmful chemicals released from a sulphur recovery unit had caused dizziness, sore throats, and one worker to pass out. No long-term or permanent injuries were caused.

BP has denied that the release occurred and indeed environmental agencies could find no evidence to support the claims.

This case is one of a number of lawsuits brought against BP involving more than 140 workers and local residents in relation to alleged gas releases from the Texas City Refinery

This blog is very much an advocate of excellence in all matters relating to Process Safety Management (PSM) and believes that all organisations should have the very best policies and procedures in place.

It is also correct that transgressions, where proven, should be punished via the courts but the punishment must fit the crime. In this example, the judgement is extremely severe considering that there is uncertainty about whether a release actually occurred and, most importantly, the fact that no-one suffered any long term effects.


Weekly News Round Up

This week's round-up of news and updates on previous stories
  • The Thai Government has formally ordered construction work to stop at the Map ta Phut petrochemical complex. There is no clear information regarding a likely restart date at this time.
  • The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner made its first test flight on Tuesday. Each 787 contains carbon fibre and adhesives to the value of $1M, with the carbon fibre coming from polyacrylonitrile. Boeing has already received 840 orders for the new aircraft.
  • Following recent shale gas discoveries, the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) now believes that the US now has approximately 100 years of natural gas reserves. If correct, this could significantly impact future petrochemical investment in the USA. This news follows the recent announcement of ExxonMobil's acquisition of  major US natural gas producer XTO Energy.
  • According to reports, the bankruptcy court in New York has adjourned the hearing to consider the LyondellBasell's proposed reorganisation plan, until January 12th. The outcome of the hearing is of much interest for Reliance Industries which has made a preliminary non-binding offer for a controlling interest in LyondellBasell.


ACC Expresses Concerns About EPA Emissions Regulation

photo : theage.com.au

The President of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has expressed serious concerns over the recent changes to emissions regulations announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

In announcing the“endangerment finding", the EPA has classisfied CO2 and other greenhouse gases as "atmospheric pollutants", allowing it to regulate such emissions under the existing authority granted by the Clean Air Act.

ACC believes that this will create a significant level of uncertainty, which will stem investment in new facilities and modifications to existing facilities at a time when the industry is in a very fragile recovery period.
Under the EPA rules and regulations, any facilities making new investments would need to obtain a permit. To do this it would be necessary to demonstrate implementation of 'best available control technology', however rules for determining what is required to satisfy this crierion do not yet exist.
ACC suggests that some time out is required to "put together a comprehensive policy that reduces emissions in our country whilst ensuring that our manufacturing sector can continue to invest".
This blog fully supports the approach proposed by ACC. A clear and well defined plan is required to address questions of sustainability and a coherent approach is required to understand and deal with the issue of climate change. Serious consequences for the chemical industry could result if an ill-considered approach is taken for the sake of political expediency.


ExxonMobil Develops Shale Gas Business With XTO Acquisition

Photo : Energy Tribune

ExxonMobil has clearly signalled its intent to develop a global shale gas business with the acquisition of XTO Energy, the Texas-based 'unconventional' gas producer.

The deal, which cost some $41bn, gives ExxonMobil a strong global position in the fast growing shale gas market, with assets throughout the world.

Shale gas extraction has become increasingly attractive as extraction techniques have improved and costs have fallen. Estimates of the potential gas supply are being revised steadily upwards as new reserves are located. The involvement of the majors such as ExxonMobil will further increase the amount of new exploration and production. It is unlikely that the 'unconventional' tag will last much longer.


Buncefield - Process Safety Leadership Group Publishes Final Report

photo : metro.co.uk

The UK Process Safety Leadership Group (PSLG) has published a report that specifies minimum standards of safety and environmental protection for all UK sites storing large volumes of gasoline.

The PSLG was set up following the explosions at fire the Buncefield fuel depot in December 2005.

The PSLG consists of expert representatives from the industry and regulatory bodies. In the course of its work, the group has established a set of 'Principles of Process Safety Leadership' as follows:

  • Clear and positive process safety leadership is at the core of managing a major hazard business and is vital to ensure that risks are effectively managed
  • Process safety leadership requires board level involvement and competence. For companies with boards located outside the UK then the responsibility to show this leadership rests with the most senior UK managers.
  • Good process safety management does not happen by chance and requires constant active engagement
  • Board level visibility and promotion of process safety leadership is essential to set a positive safety culture throughout the organisation
  • Engagement of the workforce is needed in the promotion and achievement of good process safety management
  • Monitoring process safety performance based on both leading and lagging indicators is central to ensuring business risks are being effectively managed
  • Publication of process safety performance information provides important public assurance about the management of risks by an organisation
  • Sharing best practice across industry sectors, and learning and implementing lessons from relevant incidents in other organisations, are important to maintain the currency of corporate knowledge and competence.
The principles are backed up by recommendations on organisation and resources. This blog's view is that this document is a 'must see' for all managers in the chemical industry, irrespective of location, as it provides an excellent checklist for measuring your organisation's current performance against best practice in process safety management.


Weekly News Round Up

This week's round-up of news and updates on previous stories

  • Numerous reports suggest that Reliance Industries is moving quickly in its efforts to aquire LyondellBasell , with executives from the two companies meeting recently in Houston. Reliance is believed to be preparing to make a binding offer for LyondellBasell.
  • The Chemical Engineer reports that the European Union has approved a substantial amount of funding for a number of green energy-related projects. The EU had previously set aside €4 billion for green energy projects and has now allocated €1.6 billion for carbon capture and storage projects and €0.6 billion for offshore wind energy projects.
  • Shell has opened a state-of-the-art mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) plant in Singapore. The plant uses Shell's OMEGA process, which is claimed to have lower construction and operating costs and maximises the yield of MEG (producing less di and tri-ethylene glycols), when compared with other processes.
  • BASF chairman Juergen Hambrecht has spoken positively about his company's fourth quarter results, which were above expectations. 2010 is expected to be 'difficult' given the volatility of global recovery and the fact that central bank interest rates are expected to rise.
  • Ineos Bio, together with its partner New Planet Energy, has been selected for a $50M grant for its advanced bioenergy facility in Florida, USA. The facility to use INEOS Bio’s advanced BioEnergy technology to produce bioethanol and power from a range of feedstocks, including forestry waste, agricultural waste, sustainable energy crops, construction waste and municipal solid waste.


Hope for Teesside as £60M Investment Package Announced

photo : BBC

The UK Government has announced a £60M investment package to support the rejuvenation of industry in the region. and to develop it as a centre of excellence for low carbon and advanced manufacturing technologies.

Teesside, in the North East of England, has long been at the heart of the UK Chemicals industry, with the skyline dominated for many years by the (ex) ICI plants at Wilton, North Tees and Billingham.

The industrial base has significantly declined in recent years, however. ICI no longer exists and there have been multiple chemical plant closures in the region. The situation was exacerbated further with the recently announced closure of the Corus steel plant in the region, with the loss of 1700 jobs.

The £60M investment package will be used in a number of ways. Firtsly, to provide immediate support in the aftermath of the Corus closure. Secondly, there will be investment to help the region establish itself as a low carbon base; with investment to establish bio-based materials, to develop low energy technologies, for development of carbon capture and storage and to develop new business practices.

Very positive news. The region has the skills, the infrastructure and the desire to become this centre of excellence for low carbon technologies. With the political will, a strong and coherent plan and some targeted investment, this dream can  become a reality.


GCC to Supply 20% of Global Petrochemicals by 2020

photo : GPCA

According to estimates by the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), the GCC will meet 20% of the world's petrochemical demand by 2020.

The growth of petrochemicals in the region continues to be very impressive. Current petrochemical output in the region is some 63 million tonnes and this will almost double between now and 2015, with a number of large scale projects projects underway throughout the region.

The annual GPCA Forum is now underway and the agenda has a strong focus on sustainability issues and on achieving success in the post-recession environment.

In implementing such a huge investment programme (estimated at approximately $170 billion between now and 2015), producers in the region will face a number of challenges and issues but these will be overcome, given the right skills and resources. There is little doubt that over the coming decade, the region will develop into the global petrochemicals hub.


As Copenhagen Summit Opens the Impact on Chemical Industry Remains Unclear

photo : Scandinavia Travel

With a huge political fanfare, the UN summit on climate change is opening today in the Danish capital Copenhagen, with delegates from 192 countries attending.

According to UN Climate Chief Yvo de Boer " The Copenhagen climate negotiations beginning Monday must yield an ambitious, sweeping agreement to capitalize on pledges by countries to fight global warming".

In the days and weeks leading up to this summit, there has been much political rhetoric but also an increasing level of heated debate, stirred up significantly by the leak of the so called "climategate" e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

If a deal is reached, the requirement to reduce CO2 emissions will have significant consequences for industry, both from a cost point of view (cap and trade and other proposed legislative changes) and a technology point-of-view (energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage and other green technologies).

At this stage, it is difficult to see whether an agreement can be achieved. There are major concerns in many countries, in-part relating to the scientific issues (particularly post "climategate") and partly about the impact on industry and consequently employment in those countries.

This blog's view is that the industry must vigorously implement a "sustainability agenda" looking to reduce energy consumption wherever possible and as quickly as is possible, using both energy efficiency programmes and new technologies. This is the right thing to do irrespective of the AGW debate.

Regarding climate change and AGW, a rational and open debate is needed as soon as possible. The 'science is settled' argument can only be finalised when all of the concerns have been discussed and addressed openly.

The current name calling tactics coming from both sides in the debate are totally unproductive and will only serve to polarise views further, making it even harder to achieve universal agreement and agree an implementation plan. Once a broad consensus is achieved, that is the time to decide on legislated targets and sequestration technologies such as CCS.


Weekly News Round Up

This week's round-up of news and updates on previous stories

  • In an interview with The Times, Jim Ratcliffe has indicated that Ineos will consider some asset disposals in the future. The company has to make substantial debt repayments in 2011 and has indicated that some asset sales could be a possibility. Ineos currently has debts of approximately €6.5M.
  • The Thai Supreme Court has upheld an injunction issued in September halting development of $12bn of petrochemical and power projects at the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in the eastern province of Rayong. This ruling, which could delay the start-up of several petrochemical plants, including a large cracker, has led to the involvement of the Government, in order to seek a resolution.
  • An explosion occurred at the Valero refinery in Texas City, Texas, on Friday 4th December, killing one worker and injuring two others. Few details are currently available but the blast is reported to have occurred following a boiler failure, according to a company spokesperson.
  • In another incident, three people were killed and two injured in a chemical plant explosion in Yongin, South Korea. According to reports, the blast followed a fire at the plant. An investigation is underway to identify the causes.


25 Years on From Bhopal - Have The Lessons Been Learned?

The Bhopal disaster was almost certainly the worst incident in the history of the chemical industry. 25 years on from Bhopal, we must take a step back and assess whether the lessons have truly been learned.

The incident took place at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in the Indian city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. On 3rd December 1984, the plant released 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, exposing more than 500,000 people to toxic gases.

The first official immediate death toll was 2,259. A more generally accepted figure is that 8,000- 10,000 died within 72 hours, and it is estimated that approximately 25,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.

The causes were multiple.
  • Capital expenditure was minimised
  • General cost cutting had led to poor working conditions and an inadequate inspection regime
  • Safety rules were inadequate and operators were instructed to ignore them
  • Training was cut back drastically to cut costs
  • Workers were forced to use manuals in English, even though very few could understand the language
  • Some safety features had been dismantled or disabled
  • Safety systems were inadequately designed
  • Supervision was reduced to save cost
  • Poor morale led to an exodus of skilled personnel to better and safer jobs
There is no doubt that the chemical industry has improved significantly since Bhopal. I would very much doubt  that such a severe set of issues can exist at any modern-day facility. In general, awareness of process safety is generally much improved throughout the industry.

In spite of this, however, we can not and must not be complacent. The current recession has hit the chemical industry hard and finances are under severe pressure - meaning that cost cutting is essential to survival. This is real life and has to happen - but at the same time, we must ensure that the safety and integrity of our plants is never compromised.


Canada Rail Strike Hurts Chemicals Manufacturers

photo : life.com

With 70% of the production volume of the Canadian chemical industry being moved by rail, the current rail strike has the potential to severely hurt chemicals manufacturers.

The dispute, by the locomotive engineers, is not currently impacting freight, as positions are being covered by managers, but this isn't considered sustainable in the long-term, especially as weather conditions deteriorate.

As a response, the government introduced legislation this week to order 1,700 unionised employees back to work and send the dispute to binding arbitration. It claims the strike could have "serious repercussions" for a still-fragile economy.

Canadian Chemical Producers' Association president Richard Paton has commented that the the strike could threaten the economic recovery, with manufacturers potentially forced to scale down production and lay off workers.

As this blog has noted, the post-recession 'new normal' is chracterised by a very fragile recovery with sustained periods of lower volumes and reduced margins but punctuated by periods of high volatility caused by oil and currency markets.

So for the Canadian Chemical Industry, a significant problem with logistics would be a disaster. This issue, on top of all of the other challenges that the industry is facing, may be enought to push some manufacturers over the edge. Hopefully a solution will be found quickly.


Weekly News Round Up

This week's round-up of news and updates on previous stories

  • Speaking at the Indian Petrochem 2009 Conference in Mumbia. Roland Walzi of Linde talked of the difficulties of 'mega cracker' projects. Mr Walzi exppressed his view that ethylene plants of greater than 2million tonnes/year capacity were unlikely due to 'technical challenges and economies of scale'.
  • An investigation has started into two explosions at the SNF Group's factory, located in Andrézieux in France. Four people were injured in the incidents, two seriously, believed to be caused by the mixing of incompatible substances. The incident is believed to be due to human error.
  • Moody's Investors Services has updated its outlook for the chemical industry. The view is pessimistic, given limited volume growth, overcapacity and concerns over rising raw materials prices.
  • The Qatar-based Qatofin, a joint venture between Total and QAPCO, has inaugurated a new 450 kT LLDPE plant in Mesaieed. Commercial production is expected in January next year.
  • ICIS has updated its estimate of the total number of job losses in the chemical industry since the start of the financial crisis. ICIS now estimates that more than 83,000 jobs have been lost so far.

Outcome of Teesside Study - Ten Point Plan Annouced

photo : BBC

The proposed study into the future of the Chemical Industry on Teesside (UK) has been announced.

The plan was pulled together following the spate of closures on Teesside in recent months, with closures announced by Dow Chemical, Croda, Artenius, Elementis and Invista as well as the Petroplus Refinery announcing that refining would stop and the site would be converted to a terminal.

Industry champions will lead the various points in the plan covering

Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
The future of the EO/glycols plant
Energy efficiency
Supply chain development
Teesside infrastructure for new investment
Marketing Tees Valley for future investment
Improved partnership working

My view is that these are all valid points. I also believe that securing the future of the Wilton cracker is essential for the long term survival of the process industry on Teesside, but as this is owned and operated by SABIC, it is impossible to cover directly in such a plan. My hope is that by addressing the other elements (particularly the future of the EO/MEG plant), the team will help to achieve this aim.

The skills that exist on Teesside are of the highest quality and could be used to develop new and green technologies, giving the UK a competitive edge in the market, but to do this, it is essential to retain the industrial core.

The plan has to succeed in order to secure the future of the process industries on Teesside. This will require determination and excellent co-ordination from the implementation team together with strong political support from the UK Government.


Reliance Bid For LyondellBasell To Kick-Start M&A Activity

Now that both Reliance Industries and LyondellBasell have confirmed that an offer has been made for the world's 4th largest chemical company, we can anticipate a significant increase in M&A activity in the chemical industry.

Some industry analysts believe that the reported price, of somewhere between $10M - $12M, is relatively low, given LyondellBasell's recently published EBITDA results and could initiate a bidding war involving a number of prospective suitors.

The news follows hot on the heels of the various reports that IPIC is in talks with as many as 5 potential targets, including Bayer MaterialScience and other companies possessing technologies technologies which would support the development of the ChemaWEyaat project in Abu Dhabi.

There have also been reports that Dow Chemical has been in talks regarding the sale of a number of assets, as well as reports that Sinopec was looking at a number of potential targets in Europe. I've also heard several suggestions that a number of the Middle East majors will be looking to complete further acquisitions in 2010.

It looks certain that 2010 will be a major year of change in the sector, with the emergence of some new superpowers in the industry and further consequent changes to the asset footprint. Time for the site people to start changing the signposts and the letterheads once again!


Total Cleared Over Toulouse Explosion

photo : Lepost.fr

The French oil giant Total has been cleared of responsibility for the explosion at the AZF fertiliser plant in Toulouse. The blast occurred in 2001 and killed 31 people and injured very many more. The explosion was so violent it broke windows in the Toulouse town center several miles away and caused severe damage to neighbouring buildings.

Since the accident, Total has paid out almost €2 billion in compensation to more than 20,000 victims

At a court hearing in Toulouse last week, the judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that negligence by the Total subsidiary Grande Paroisse had caused the blast. As a result, charges against Grande Paroisse and its Site Director have been dropped. French prosecutors have since said that they would appeal against this court ruling

The initial investigation, completed in 2006, concluded that an unusually large quantity of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse was responsible for the blast, and accused plant managers of negligence.

Without the full detail of the investigation, it is impossible to comment on the detail of this case. What is clear, though, is that lives have been devastated, the incident has cost Total a huge amount of time and money and reputations have been damaged.

There is absolutely no doubt that incidents such as this one are avoidable. Excellence in all matters health and safety is fully consistent with excellence in business. A strong corporate HSE culture is required, together with effective manufacturing management.


Weekly News Round Up

A little earlier than usual - this week's round-up of news and updates on previous stories

  • IPIC has responded to reports that it was in talks with Bayer MaterialScience and four other global petrochemical groups.
    An IPIC spokesman commented: "At present there are no firm plans to do anything with Bayer MaterialScience, or any other chemical company. A number of initiatives are under consideration internally, but nothing has been decided."
  • Three officials at a subsidiary of the UK mining company Vedanta Resources have been arrested in India following the collapse of a chimney in one of its power stations which killed 41 people.
    The tragic incident occurred in September at Vedanta's Bharat Aluminium Company (Balco) power plant in Chhattisgarh, central India, during heavy storms. After a two-month investigation, local police have arrested Balco's vice-president, who was also the plant's project manager, its associate general manager and a graduate trainee engineer
  • The chief executive of the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) has warned  that the UK runs the risk of losing out to its international competitors if the government does not tackle fundamental issues such as regulation, energy and credit availability. In a CIA survey of business investment attitudes, 68% of British chemical and pharmaceutical business leaders said they had felt overburdensome regulation in the UK would act as a barrier to further investment. The survey also showed that 53% of those questioned said energy security and price would act as a key barrier, while 37% cited the problem of credit availability.

  • The UK Times Newspaper published the results of a poll on the views of the UK public on climate change. According to the Times, only 41% accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made. 32% believe that the link is not yet proved; 8% say that it is environmentalist propaganda to blame man and 15% say that the world is not warming.
  • The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has confirmed that that spilled gasoline vaporised and caused a fire and blast in late October that destroyed more than 10 petroleum storage tanks owned by Caribbean Petroleum in Puerto Rico.

Clariant Announces Closures in 'Global Asset Optimisation Project'

photo http://www.clariant.com/

Clariant has annouced a number of site closures as an initial conclusion to its Global Asset Optimization Project (GANO).

Sites planned for closure are Huningue, France: Pontypridd, UK; CIVAC, Cuernavaca in Mexico; and parts of two plants at Clariant sites in Germany, at Gendorf and Frankfurt. In addition, Clariant will now initiate an evaluation of all strategic options for its site in Onsan, South Korea.

According to Clariant "Project GANO is part of a wider restructuring program at Clariant aimed at closing the gap the company has compared to peers regarding several key performance indicators. The Project addresses the structural deficits of Clariant’s production network as well as long term overcapacity issues. It will continue to identify further optimization potential."

Whilst such a move is tough, 570 job losses in total, it represents only the first stage in Clariant's optimisation programme. Clariant has hinted that further changes can be expected between now and 2013, as it "continues to identify further optimisation potential".

Such structural changes are necessary, however. As noted in the previous post on the new reality for petchems, highly efficient and flexible manufacturing assets will be required to survive in the post-recession world. Clariant is taking bold steps, we can expect many more to follow.


Bayer Outlines Energy Saving Measures

photo : Dimplex

Bayer MaterialScience has taken a very proactive stance in highlighting a number of the measures that it is taking to meet its goal of cutting specific greenhouse gas emissions per ton of product sold by 25% by 2020.

To achieve this target, Bayer has announced the following steps

  • Implementation of a novel energy management system to cut energy use  throught its manufacturing and supply chain. In particular the company aims to reduce consumption at its 60 most energy-intensive sites 10% by 2012
  • Introduction of a new chlorine production process, with the highly energy-efficient oxygen-depolarised cathode process (uses 30% less electricity than equivalent processes)
  • Developing and implementing a new approach for supplying materials and technologies for energy-efficient housing
  • Designing several company buildings to be ultra-efficient, using significantly less energy than buildings of an equivalent size
This blog has posted several times on the question of anthropogenic global warming. However, whilst this particular debate will rage well beyond Copenhagen, the case for a sustainable approach to business is absolutely clear.

Bayer's approach is to be applauded and makes great business sense, in terms of company image, in terms of sustainability and in terms of long term energy cost saving


PetroRabigh I Inaugurated - Now For Phases 2 and 3

photo : Petrorabigh

On 8th November, the huge Petro Rabigh I project was inaugurated by the Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi. With Petro Rabigh I now in the start-up phase, attention is now switching to the next phases of the project

Phase I of the project, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Sumitomo, comprises an integrated refinery/petrochemicals compex with production capacities of 1250 kT ethylene, 900 kT propylene and downstream PE, PP, PO and MEG.

The memorandum of understanding for the feasibility study for Petro Rabigh II was signed back in April. Phase 2 includes expansion of the cracker, construction of an aromatics unit and various downstream units such as MMA, PMMA, LDPE/EVA, caprolactam, polyols, cumene, phenol/acetone, acrylic acid, SAP and Nylon-6.

It is also being suggested that a phase 3 will be considered, to expand production at the site and achieve further downstream integration.

The development is a part of the the Kingdom's plan to diversify the economy and income resources, and to create new job opportunities for Saudi citizens. Many thousands will be employed, housed, and schooled in Rabigh, which will make it a major city in Saudi Arabia. The Rabigh development is also linked to the development of the nearby King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which opened in September 2009 amd is planned to become a world class university and research centre.

Altogether a stunning project and one which can only enhance the on-going development of Saudi Arabia.


CSB Requests Closure of US Refinery

photo : http://www.ksl.com/

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has requested the closure of the Silver Eagle Refinery located in Utah, USA. According to CSB President, John Bresland, the CSB team found widespread safety problems at the refinery during the investigation into the November 4th explosion at the plant.

According to Mr Bresland, the CSB team had developed a number of serious concerns about the integrity of the piping and equipment at the refinery. The team found a  lack of required documentation to demonstrate fitness for service of various pieces of equipment.

The explosion on 4th November was caused by a release of hydrogen due to a burst in a 10-inch pipe. CSB investigators found that the pipe "showed evidence of significant thinning which had not been detected by the refinery's mechanical integrity program". The explosion, in the diesel hydrotreater unit, caused damage to homes in the surrounding area and was felt several miles away from the facility

The refinery will restart after repairs and safety inspections are completed.

This is yet more evidence that regulators are becoming tougher in dealing with process safety issues. This blog fully supports this tougher stance. Incidents such as this are fully preventable if organisations are proactive in process safety management (PSM) and have a strong PSM strategy and culture throughout the organisation.


Friday News Round Up

Today's round-up of news and updates on previous stories

  • Total has today pleaded guilty to charges relating to the explosion at the Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire in 2005. A subtantial fine is likely but this will not be set until trials have been held for the other companies charged in relation to the incident. Earlier this year, the court ruled that Total should pay the property damage bills of individual and business claimants, amounting to £750m - an appeal against this decision wil be held next year.
  • Dow Chemical has said that it plans to sell more assets in 2010 as it continues to work toward paying off debt from its $16.5 billion acquisition of Rohm and Haas in April. The sale will include the Styron business - the deal is expected to close in early 2010 - together with a number of smaller businesses.


Reliance to Purchase LyondellBasell Assets?

photo : LyondellBasell

Speculation is mounting that Reliance Industries is looking to buy the North American assets of LyondellBasell. Various sources suggest that a price of between $3 billion and $6 billion will be offered for the assets.

LyondellBasell was formed back in July 2007, when Basell acquired Lyondell Chemical Co. for $12.1 billion.

Although it is necessary to take into account the fact that Lyondell had assets outside the US, the price range quoted is still much lower than the original price paid by Basell. It is not clear at this stage whether the deal would include any of LyondellBasell's very strong technology licensing businesses - which cover predominantly polyolefins, polyolefin catalysts, olefins, propylene oxide and derivatives - although I would think this is unlikely.

LyondellBasell does have some very good US assets. If Reliance were to acquire these assets it would significantly strengthen its global position and move significantly higher in the ICIS Top 100 chemical companies, where it currently holds 34th place. LyondellBasell is currently in 4th place. Changing times!


Cap and Trade Debate Rages in Senate

photo : Greensolutionsmag

As noted last week, the Cap and Trade bill was recently approved by  the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, an important first stage in the approval process. Yesterday it was the turn of industry groups to present testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on the impact of the legislation on refinery and petrochemical jobs in the US.

The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) expressed its view that the total cost to US refiners would exceed $67 billion per year based on the total cost of both refinery and consumer emissions. NPRA believes that this would simply drive refining and petrochemical production overseas, with a huge impact for the US economy, significantly increasing unemployment whilst having little no net impact on global CO2 emissions.

As the world rushes towards Copenhagen, do we need to take a step back and really consider what we are doing here?

Firstly, polls show that very many people remain unconvinced about anthropogenic global warming, despite "the science is settled" statements of many national governments and the alarmist approach taken to promote the need for action. To leave this question unresolved in the minds of so many risks creating major social and economic issues in the future.

Secondly, we need to ensure that whatever course of action is agreed is implemented on a truly global basis, so that the chosen strategy can meet its stated aims, without simply leading to a redistribution of manufacturing assets around the globe.


Shell Uses Twitter to Update on Hurricane Ida

photo : Geology.com

Shell has been using the social networking site Twitter in order to post updates on the progress of Hurricane Ida.

Shell advised that it had safely evacuated some 160 people over the weekend who were not essential to producing and drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico  and that it was not planning any additional significant personnel movements until Ida has moved through the northern Gulf.

Fantastic use of this on-line tool and an excellent means of communicating and updating to staff and other stakeholders. Communication to impacted parties is always difficult during incidents or situations such as this. Use of a tool such as Twitter would be an excellent way for production sites to communicate to local communities, particularly during major incidents.


Friday News Round Up

Friday again, so time to update on some previous posts and share some other news

  • In the UAE, Borouge has announced that preparatory work has started on the site for the Borouge 3 project. The contract for the 1.5 million tonne ethane cracker was awarded to Linde Group back in July. The complex will also include PP, PE, butane and associated infrastructure and marine facilities.
  • Evonik has annouced that it will permanently close two plants at the Munchmunster Chemical Park, impacting over 100 jobs. The plants, which produced cyanuric chloride and acetocyanahydrin had been idled since the end of 2008.
  • A fire in a PVC unit at Rompetrol Rafinare's Petromida Refinery has killed two workers and injured two others. The cause of the fire are not yet known. The incident follows another fatality at the site in October due to gas intoxication.
  • A key US Senate committee has approved the 'cap and trade' bill. The committee approved the vote by 10-1 although opponents have criticised the committee, which is made up entirely of Democrats, for putting US jobs at risk. The bill must pass through 4 further committees before it can go to the Senate for a vote.
  • Finally, the UK Daily Telegraph has reported the story of a man, Darren Young, who has become allergic to his wife due to an intolerance to polyethylene glycol. Any contact with the chemical causes swelling and a soaring heart rate. This means that he cannot go near his wife if she is wearing any kind of cream or body lotion. The allergy started after Mr. Young was given a steroid injection to treat a problem with his foot.


Ineos Studies Waste to Bioethanol Plant

According to press reports, Ineos Bio is studying the possibility of a new plant in the UK to produce bioethanol from household waste.

The study will cost some £3.5 million (of which £2m is public money) and will be completed in early 2010 so that a decision can be made on possible a 25kT  plant at the company’s existing Seal Sands’ Site.

The proposed plant would  also produce an estimated 3MW of electricity a year as a by-product.

According to the Ineos press release - the process is a combined thermochemical and biochemical technology for the production of bio-ethanol and renewable power from a wide range of low-cost carbon materials, including biodegradable household and industrial wastes. At the heart of the INEOS Bio technology is an anaerobic fermentation step, through which naturally occurring bacteria convert gases derived directly from biomass into bio-ethanol. The process supports high recycling and high landfill diversion rates.

The bioethanol from the plant will be initially used as a road fuel transport, but ultimately the company hopes to license the process for the production of low-cost chemical intermediates from a range of recycled waste materials.

If this process can economically produce fuel or feedstock, it will be a major step forward. The only stumbling block may be the availability of funding, given the current debt situation at Ineos but if the solution proves to be as attractive as it sounds, we must hope that a solution can be found.


Workplace Accidents - The Odds

photo : book of odds

The Book of Odds is a strangely fascinating read. It is a site where you can read about the odds on all aspects of daily life. The site gives odds on a wide range of events and I can guarantee that you will learn all sorts of interesting statistics on everyday and truly bizarre events. One subject of interest to manufacturers is the section on workplace accidents.

For example, the odds that a workplace death will be caused by exposure to a harmful substance or environment are 1 in 11.25, whilst the odds of a workplace death being caused by a transportation incident are 1 in 2.46. Much less risky, the odds of a person dying from a vending machine incident are 1 in 112,000,000.

No doubt that this data is less useable than standard probability data but it does highlight some of the key risks in the workplace. So whilst this post is somewhat unusual compared to my normal subjects, I hope that you will find this site as interesting as I did.


Latest ISM Report Suggests Recovery in Manufacturing Sector

The October report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) has shown that economic activity in the US manufacturing sector expanded in October for the third consecutive month. Conventional wisdon suggests that such a sequence is confirmation of a well established recovery.

The Institute uses its Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) as an indicator of performance. A PMI score of below 50 indicates that the sector is contracting, whilst a score above 50 indicates that the sector is expanding. The data for the index is collected using a survey of 400 purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector on five elements; production level, new orders from customers, speed of supplier deliveries, inventories and employment level. Previous studies have shown that the PMI gives reasonably good correlation with the state of the economy and GDP growth.

The index has rebounded from a low point of 32.9% in December 2008 and the chart shows that the growth has been steady over the last year.

Chemicals and plastics reported growth as did petroleum and coal products. Respondents were also positive about the employment outlook in manufacturing.

Although these figures are good news there are still concerns about the 'China Effect' in the chemical industry, with much of the extra demand coming from the Chinese government stimulus packages and the easy availability of finance in China. We also still have the effects of US and European local stimulus packages such as 'cash for clunkers'. On the other side of the equation, housing starts remain low, meaning less chemical consumption and unemployment is still rising, which will have an impact on consumer spending.

Mixed news is better than bad news but it is difficult to be certain about whether or not this really is sustained recovery until a clearer picture emerges.


BP Texas City - Strongly Worded Statement From CSB

photo : CSB

Following the recent OSHA announcement alleging 'extensive and serious violations by BP at Texas City, John Bresland, Chairman of US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has issued a strongly worded statement in which he expresses concerns about BP's safety culture.

In the statement Bresland states "Whilst these OSHA citations are not yet final, they are of great concern to me because they strongly suggest that BP has yet to achieve an effective safety culture with regard to process safety management.

Bresland also expresses concern about on-going problems across the U.S. Refinery Industry "Whilst OSHA reported that a potential for another catastrophic accident remains at B.P. Texas City, the CSB has found that safety problems continue across the U.S. Refinery Industry".

Whilst the CSB is focused on the industry in the U.S. it is fair to say that process safety management concerns exist across the industry and across the globe. Some organisations are doing excellent work in this area, whilst others still need to improve.

Most importantly, organisations need to have clearly defined accountabilities for process safety at board level. This means having someone with real professional expertise in operations and process safety, with the authority and capability to drive an effective PSM programme. Accidents such as Texas City must not be allowed to happen again but as things stand, the risk remains very real.


Record Fine For BP

Following on from my previous comment on BP Texas City, the  BBC has now reported that BP has been fined a record $87m (£53m) for failing to correct safety hazards at the site.
As noted previously, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited 270 violations at the oil refinery. BP said it believed it was in "full compliance" with a 2005 settlement agreement with OSHA and would work with the agency to resolve the issue.

The $87m fine is the largest in OSHA's history.

Mixed News as Companies Report on Q3

Mixed news for the chemical and process industries as companies reported Q3 results

  • BASF reported third quarter profits down 69% year on year to €237M. BASF expects a long slow climb out of recession. BASF expects some employees will remain on short-time working into 2010. Whilst business has stabilised the climb out from the trough will be slow.
  • Shell reported a collapse in Q3 profits from $10.9 billion in 2008 last year down to $3 billion. As a result of this poor performance, Shell will axe some 5000 jobs worldwide in its 'Transition 2009' programme
  • BP's results were some 50% better than city analyst's expectations, with replacement cost profit of $4.98 billion. BP has already cut costs following reorganisation and efficiency improvements and aims to do even more this year. BP noted that they had achieved a 7% increase in production as well as a number of new developments in the Gulf of Mexico, Iraq and China, amongst others.
  • GSK showed that the pharma sector is still reasonably strong. Profits were up 12% at $2.4 billion. Demand for the H1N1 vaccine has help bolster GSK
Overall, things remain tough for commodity sector, and particularly for those who rely on housing starts and the automotive sector for a major proportion of their demand. The end to the various stimulus packages will also create issues as volumes drop back to the 'new normal'.

Some sectors are clearly much less affected, such as pharma, although cost cutting and a move to generics will make things tougher.

For manufacturers, we can anticipate another tough year, chartacterised by reorganisations, reduced capital expenditure and some site closures as we slowly start to pull out of recession.


World's Largest Polymer Park Changing Face of Plastics Conversion

photo: Arabianoilandgas.com

With up to 15 million tonnes of new polymer capacity coming on stream in the GCC region from highly integrated and effficient plants, the obvious next step was to improve the integration of these plants with the downstream convertors. The new Abu Dhabi Polymers Park is a huge step in achieving that goal.

The park, developed by the Abu Dhabi Basic Industries Corporation (ADBIC), a state owned organisation, will cost some €3.5 billion to complete and once fully operational, will consume up to 2 million tonnes per year of polymers (mostly PE, PP, PVC and Polyester).

The park's developers have given considerable thought to the design of the cluster and have come up with a very well structured package. The park will have purpose designed logistics facilities, a nearby deep-sea container port, flexible supply chain and technical service capabilities and competitively priced utility and land costs. Unlike existing clusters, the concept has been carefully designed from the outset, rather than evolving out of large corporate supersites, as was the case with many of the European clusters.

So with leveraged procurement, high quality logistics, on-site technical support capability and competitive land and utility costs, it sounds pretty good. Add to that a growing local market and zero tax on company and private income and you have an irresistible opportunity.


Shell - Integration Key To Successful Growth

photo : Hydrocarbons Technology

Shell believes that integration is key to delivering what it calls the 'oil chemicals advantage' in its petrochemical facilities.

Downstream Today has reported a recent speech at the recent Petchem Arabia 09 in Abu Dhabi by Aslam Moola, Business Development Manager for Shell Chemicals. Mr Moola cites various examples of projects and existing installations that clearly demonstrate the benefits of integration.

Integration, together with strong project implementation and effective production and energy management, is increasing the competitiveness of plants such as SEPC on Jurong Island, Singapore as well as other integrated Shell complexes around the world, according to Mr Moola.

The Middle East is set to benefit fom this integration. This will be even further enhanced by the development of downstream manufacturing capabilities, such as the polymer parks in Abu Dhabi and the growth of domestic markets in the region.

At International eChem, we have long argued that the critical success factors for petrochemical operations are integration, size, technology, global reach and location. Clearly, all of these factors must be supported by a strong business strategy, together with highly effective delivery of that strategy.

Recent projects in the Middle East and Asia tick all of the boxes and will increasingly dominate supply in the years to come.


RSC Identifies Top-Ten Challenges for the Chemical Sciences

photo : RSC

Using a series of workshops and on-line conultations, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)  has been working for the last year to identify priorities and challenges for the chemical sciences. The intention is to set the science agenda for the coming years.

In total, 41 challenges were identified, with the following top 10

  • Agricultural productivity
  • Conservation of scarce natural resources
  • Conversion of biomass feedstocks
  • Diagnostics for human health
  • Drinking water quality
  • Drugs and therapies
  • Energy conversion and storage
  • Nuclear energy
  • Solar energy
  • Sustainable product design
Next step for the RSC is to identify partners and start to develop implementation plans for associated projects.

Clearly many of these challenges will increasingly impact the chemical industry and chemicals manufacturers. Involvement in these challenge areas will help address these challenges and support business development. As mentioned in many previous posts, innovation and flexibility are key to long term success.


OSHA Rejects BP's Request For More Time In Texas City Follow-Up

photo : ABC

In a letter seen by Reuters, OSHA has rejected BP's request for more time to fix safety problems at its Texas City Refinery.

OSHA has forwarded the dispute to a review commission and objected to BP's appeal, arguing that BP had failed to show how it would fix safety problems found after the deadly 2005 explosion at the refinery. OSHA has also said that BP could not ask for more time whilst simultaneously claiming that the refinery had met the terms of a four-year agreement to fix the safety issues which led to the explosion in March 2005 which killed 15 people and injured 180 other workers.

BP has said the commission would find the company has lived up to its agreement to comply with federal safety regulations at Texas City.

Without the detail, it is impossible comment on specifics. In broad terms however, it is fair to say that questions of interpretation can be argued and debated but questions of fundamental process safety must be fully addressed.


Friday News Round Up

Friday once again, so a time to update on various past stories and news items

  • ICIS has analysed the various chemical companies job loss related annoucements reported to them since the start of the financial crisis in September 2008. The figures show that chemical companies have cut over 77,000 jobs since the crisis began.

  • In the UK, NEPIC, the North East Chemical Industry Cluster, will investigate the commercial feasibility of chemical production from biomass. The 30-month project is being carried out on behalf of the UK Government department DEFRA

  •  BASF has announced that it will close its maleic anhydride plant at Feluy, Belgium by the end of this year, with the loss of 133 jobs

  • As Copenhagen approaches, UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown expressed his views on climate change. He warned delegates at the Major Economies Forum in London (representing 17 of the world's biggest greenhouse gas-emitting countries) there was "no plan B" regarding climate change and that negotiators had "50 days to save the world from global warming".

  • Paul Hodges sets out his views on what's to come for 2010 in his analysis 'Budgeting for a New Normal'. In his summary, he states "2010 to be a transition year. Full economic recovery is unlikely to take place much before the 2011/13 timeframe. But the return of economic growth will offer companies the opportunity to identify likely future market needs. Those that focus on this new reality, rather than simply hoping for a quick return to the Boom years, will position themselves for future success."


Outlook Mixed For Chemical Engineers

photo : http://www.poiseuille.blogspot.com/

According to the US based publication Chemical Engineering, the employment outlook for Chemical Engineers is something of a mixed bag at the moment.

Key findings are:

  • There are fewer job openings generally and corporate hiring processes are tougher
  • Chemical Engineers with creativity and a broad skill set will always be in demand
  • Median salaries are 7% higher than in 2007
  • Recruitment firms are reporting fewer job searches
  • Replacement hiring is down by about half and growth hiring (for expansion of production) is very low
  • Chemical Engineers of the 'baby boomer' generation are working for longer, contributing to the drop in replacement hiring
  • There are fewer entry-level positions but salaries are higher than in 2007
  • New opportunities exist in renewables and green technology
  • Process Control and Process Safety Engineers are in short supply
  • Demand is significantly down in sectors supplying automotive and construction markets
Not all doom and gloom by any means. Chemical Engineering is still a highly flexible degree and gives the holder opportunities in a wide range of technical and non-technical jobs. Whilst the climate is tough currently, things should start to improve but as with business, creativity and flexibility are the keys to long term success.


Shale Gas - The Next Petrochemical Feedstock?

photo : Energy Tribune

Is shale gas set to become the next major feedstock for the Chemical Industry? Shale gas, oftern referred to as an 'unconvetional' source of natural gas, has become an increasingly more important source of natural gas in the United States over the past decade, and interest has spread to potential gas shales in Canada and Europe.

Some projections suggest that shale gas could supply as much as half the natural gas requirement in North America by 2020 as well as providing a significant proportion of Europe's gas supply.

Recent improvements in extraction techniques have attracted the major players into the arena, with companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Statoil and BG Group becoming increasingly involved.

Shale gas currently costs more to produce than gas from conventional sources, due of the expense of extraction process but this is expected to eveolve quickly as more major players become involved.

Given current overcapacity and new investment in plants in the Middle East and Asia, shale gas will not revolutionise petrochemicals manufacture but it is very likely to play some part in shaping it.


Industry Fatalities High In Developing Nations

Alarming figures on industrial fatalities from Dr Sanjeev Saraf's excellent Risk and Safety Blog. Apparently, data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), shows that, in 2005, there were 11 deaths every 100,000 workers in India, compared with 2 in the US and 0.01 in Japan.

What's more, the lack of formal, national accident tracking systems in some countries means that figures in in some instances are under significantly under-estimated.

Whilst the figures cover all industries, it is not unreasonable to anticipate a similar set of issues in the chemical industry.

We can all understand that manufacturing companies relocate to developing countries for economic reasons but whatever the local legislation, relocating companies have a corporate citizenship obligation to ensure the highest possible standards of health and safety. Clearly there is still work to be done.


Huntsman - 2010 and 2011 Will Be More Difficult Than 2009

We can expect 2010 and 2011 to be difficult years for commodity chemical producers. That's the view expressed by Peter Huntsman, CEO of Huntsman Corporation in his interview with India's Economic Times.

Huntsman's view is that the emerging superpowers in the chemical industry such as SABIC and Reliance will start to assert themselves in global markets, with the impacts of large scale, state-of-the-art investments imposing themselves on global supply.

This new and high quality supply will make things very tough for the ageing, smaller scale plants in the US and Europe.

Nothing particularly new in this analysis. We are already seeing new plants coming on stream and further investment in capacity such as Borouge 3 in Abu Dhabi. Investment levels are increasing again, and the only thing constraining further Middle Eastern expansion is the increasing tightness of ethane feedstock availability due to the relatively slow exploitation of the gas fields in the region.

Due to what Peter Huntsman saw as an inability to compete, his company moved out of commodity chemicals and into speciality chemicals. Huntsman's current product portfolio is based on technology and innovation, where these factors are more important than price or raw material availability.

His view is about right, we cannot expect major investments in commodity chemical production in Europe and North America, although we can expect some of the current commodity chemical plants to have a reasonable future if they are innovative, flexible and well maintained. However for innovation in speciality chemicals and green technologies, the future can be positive in Europe and North America, as long as governments and industry take care to maintain the infrastructure and skill base.


Friday News Round Up

Friday again, so a good time to update on various past stories and share some news snippets.

  • Problems persist at Lavéra, with Arkema forced to prolong its force majeure on PVC. This was due to on-going problems on the Vinyl Chloride Monomer plant at Lavéra. According to the La Provence newspaper, issues included a minor chlorine leak which led to site emergency procedures being initiated. Arkema report that there was no adverse environmental impact.

  • The UK chemical cluster at Wilton was again in the news. It was announced that a study will  be conducted with businesses on the Wilton site to understand their immediate and future needs, and the outcome will dictate what extra action is needed to support them.

  • The American Chemical Society (ACS) are holding a small & medium business Webinar to give participants an opportunity to learn about trends in the chemical industry that can impact jobs and businesses. Scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22, 2-3 p.m. Eastern Time, the free webinar will feature my colleague Paul Hodges, author of the  ICIS "Chemicals and the Economy'" blog. The webinar's topic is "What you need to know about Chemistry and the Economy! Secrets to finding hidden opportunities."
          Registration details are available by following this link.

  • The debate about climate change rages on ahead of the Copenhagen Summit. Paul Hudson's BBC blog has led to many exchanges of views, with another senior BBC reporter, Peter Sissons also joining the debate. Cap and Trade is very much the hot topic right now (please pardon the pun), so we can expect this debate to intensify in coming weeks.


UK Corporate Manslaughter Act Faces First Test

Following my previous post on fatalities in the chemical industry, it is worth remembering that the UK Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, came into force on April 6 2008.

Under this act an offence will be committed if: “A management failure by senior managers of a corporation is a substantial element in a gross breach of duty to take care, causing the death of employees or others.”

Put more simply, a manufacturer will be liable where it owes a duty to take reasonable care of its employees’ safety, and the way in which its activities have been managed or organised amounts to a gross breach of that duty, and, ultimately, causes death.

The first test case will come before the court in the new year. A director of a geotechnical survey company has been charged in relation to the death of an employee in 2008. Under the new act, companies are liable to face limitless fines and there is also the possibility of imprisonment for directors.

So the act obliges companies and individual directors to act reasonably and responsibly and effectively manage corporate health and safety. In reality, no different from the obligation we've always had. The only difference now is that the penalties are much more severe if we fail to meet these obligations.


Climate Change Debate Continues

At the forthcoming carbon sequestration conference in London, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu will be speaking about carbon capture and storage (CCS). Mr Chu has has talked of 'overwhelming scientific evidence' that carbon emissions from fossil fuels are causing climate changes.

Although most national governments take the same line, sceptics point to the fact that global temperatures have fallen since 1998, which was the warmest year on record.

In Paul Hudson's fascinating BBC blog, the various arguments are spelled out. There are many points of view regarding the causes of global warming (natural vs man-made) and the validity of the various studies.

Very interesting and very pertinent as we approach the Copenhagen summit and the introduction of the various emissions trading bills around the world. To quote Paul Hudson ' The debate about what's causing global warming is far from over. Some would say it's hotting up.'


US Chemical Industry Fatalities Down

2008 data published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a decline in the number of work related fatalities in the chemical industry. A total of 18 employees died from work-related causes in 2008.

Numbers in the chemical industry are improving. The number of fatalities was 33 in 2006 and 24 in 2007 and show that the chemical industry is achieving some success in recognising and addressing hazards.

It is worth noting, however, that in manufacturing, the number of fatalities increased from 400 to 404, despite the reduced levels of activity due to recession. The 404 number included the 14 people killed at Imperial Sugar as noted in my previous blog post.

Across the United States, there were 5071 fatalities in 2008, down from 5657 in 2007. The worst industry sectors were construction (969), transportation and warehousing (762) and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (651)

Despite the improving figures in the chemicals sector, there is absolutely no room for complacency. As this blog has reported several times, far too many easily avoidable incidents are still happening. Even 18 fatalities represents 18 people who went to work and didn't return home to their families. That is 18 too many.


Dust Explosion and Inferno at Sugar Plant

In another stunning video, the US Chemical Safety Board describes the sequence of events that led to a catastrophic incident at Imperial Sugar in Georgia, USA in February 2008.

The dust explosion and subsequent fire killed 14 people and injured many more. The facility was virtually destroyed.

Imperial Sugar failed to understand and address the issues at their site, with spillages of sugar and airborne sugar dust becoming the norm at this facility. Dust control systems were poorly designed and in a bad state of repair. Staff were not trained to identify and deal with the issues and emergency preparedness was poor.

Eventually, a plant modification was made with catastrophic effects, leading to dust explosion, fire and multiple fatalities.

Although the exact sequence of events was specific to this incident, the common themes were all present. As manufacturers we have the following obligations:

  • Understand our hazards
  • Manage those hazards
  • Ensure effective housekeeping
  • Have well trained personnel
  • Ensure full emergency preparedness
  • Have effective management of change procedures
  • Measure and review HSE (and process safety) performance using leading and lagging indicators
If anyone claims that it is too expensive to implement the above list, just compare that cost with the human and financial cost of an incident leading to 14 fatalities and a destroyed plant.