© SaschaB85 Twitter © BASF General | October 31, 2016

BASF accident: the leak came from cut in pipeline

On Monday, October 17, 2016, there was an explosion and subsequent fires at the North Harbor in Ludwigshafen – the company is still investigating the cause of the accident.
“We mourn two colleagues from the fire department and the seaman who died in the fire. Our deepest sympathy is with their families and friends. Many people were injured, some of them severely. Our thoughts are with them and their families and friends. We hope that they are on the way to recovery,” said Dr. Kurt Bock, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF at a press conference in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Currently, the company knows the following about the accident.

Two employees of the BASF fire department and an employee of a tanker which was anchored in the harbor died in the accident. Eight people were seriously injured, 22 others were injured.

The course of events is still being investigated by the public prosecutor’s office of Frankenthal and the incident site is still locked. A few days prior to the accident, a specialized pipeline construction company began to conduct assembly works on a deflated and secured ethylene pipeline route. The aim of the assembly works was to exchange several parts of the pipeline as a preventive maintenance measure.

On October 17, a fire started at 11:30 a.m. near the assembly works. The BASF fire department, emergency service and environment protection sent forces which arrived a few minutes later and immediately started emergency operations. During this time an explosion, most likely at the ethylene pipeline, occurred. The explosion resulted in more fires at various points along the pipeline trench, damaging further product and supply pipelines.

Additional emergency forces immediately began rescue measures as well as extinguishing and cooling measures. “The emergency forces operated in an extreme situation. Their effort cannot be expressed in words,” said Margret Suckale, Member of the Board and Site Director of Ludwigshafen.

The pipelines that burned included those used for ethylene, propylene, a butylene product mix (raffinate), pyrolysis gasoline and ethylhexanol.

On October 26, the District Attorney of Frankenthal/Palatinate and the Police Headquarters of Rheinpfalz announced the following information on the progress of the investigation:

“In the course of intensive investigations directly at the scene of the incident, it has been established that there was a cut made in a pipeline. This was apparently done with a cutting disc. Maintenance work using an angle grinder was in progress on an adjacent pipeline. The cut pipeline was not part of this work. This pipeline contained flammable raffinate.” (Excerpt of the press release from District Attorney of Frankenthal/Palatinate and the Police Headquarters of Rheinpfalz, translated by BASF).
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