Unipetrol: Litvinov ethylene plant restart likely to take months

Unipetrol AS will not have a definite timeframe for restarting production at its Chempark Zaluzi petrochemical complex in Litvinov, Czech Republic, until it completes an investigation into the mid-August explosion and ensuing fire at the site’s 544,000-tonne/year (tpy) ethylene plant (OGJ Online, Aug. 14, 2015).

The company will undertake an assessment of the full extent of damages to processing units and determine a plan for requisite repairs after finalizing a joint investigation into the incident currently under way with a special team of Czech Republic police and fire officials, Unipetrol said.

While the company said it hopes to reestablish at least some production at the site in the near term, a timeframe for the possible restart of full production at the plant remains uncertain, according to Marek Sitajewski, Unipetrol’s chief executive officer and chairman.

“Regarding reestablishing [full petrochemical operations at the plant], we are talking approximately about the horizon of months rather than weeks,” Switajewski said.

The Aug. 13 explosion, which occurred following a propylene leak at the plant’s steam cracker, was followed by fires in two separate parts of the unit, forcing a complete halt to petrochemical production at the complex.

While the plant’s steam cracker, polypropylene unit, and two polyethylene units will remain offline until further notice, Unipetrol subsidiary Ceska Rafinerska AS’s nearby 5.4 million-tpy Litvinov refinery, which acts as key supplier of naphtha feedstock for the cracker, continues to operate at minimum rates.

Unipetrol reduced crude throughputs at the Litvinov refinery as a precautionary measure following the Aug. 13 cracker fire.

While the Litvinov refinery continues to produce limited volumes of gasoline and diesel, Unipetrol’s declaration of a force majeure on petrochemical production supply agreements with its customers remains in place.

The Litvinov steam cracker also experienced unplanned shutdowns in June and July that occurred alongside unidentified technical difficulties, Unipetrol said.

A subsidiary of Polski Koncern Naftowy SA (PKN Orlen), Unipetrol reported in July that it would continue to work during this year’s second half on two major projects at the Chempark Zaluzi complex, including a revamp of the complex’s T700 onsite power plant as well as a reconstruction of the steam cracker’s pyrolysis furnace BA-102.

The company has not indicated the Aug. 13 incident at Chempark Zaluzi incident was related to any associated work on the planned major projects.

Contact Robert Brelsford at rbrelsford@ogjonline.com.

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