Blaze at IRPC 'under control'
Explosions rocked a petrochemical plant of PTT affiliate IRPC in Rayong's Muang district late yesterday, generating big, thick column of smoke and toxic gas.
Local residents living near the plant on Sukhumvit Road, were evacuated after the blasts, which took place at about 6pm. As of the press time, there were no reports of casualties.
Firefighters and water trucks rushed to the scene and managed to control the fires that erupted after the explosion. However, they were not able to get into the factory at press time as they were unsure if it was safe.
Wichien Jungrungrueng, director general of the Pollution Control Department, said the plant on fire had treated combined gas oil and he assigned a chemical emergency team already in the area to inspect the site.
Meanwhile, Nuttaphon Nuttasomboon, director general of Industrial Works Department, said the spot where the blast started was suspected to be a gas storage site.
"Now the fires are under control but the stench from the smoke, which is very toxic, is still present. Therefore local residents living in the area were evacuated for their safety," he said.
The bad odour and explosions may have been caused by organic compounds stored in the factory, which were volatile and highly flammable.
Sumetha Wichienpet, chief of the emergency team, told reporters that people should avoid inhaling sulphur dioxide gas generated from the blaze from sulphur tanks in the factory. But the gas should have no immediate affects on humans, if inhaled.
Saran Rungkasiri, chief operating officer for PTT's downstream petrochemical business group, said the fire broken out at IRPC's combined gas and oil plant and was under control.
"But, we cannot assess how long the plant will suspend its operation. We are waiting for an inspection report."
IRPC president Sukrit Surabotsopon said the starting point of the fire was a tank that prepared raw material to be supplied to a diesel unit.
IRPC, which PTT owns 38.5 per cent of, operates a refinery with capacity of 215,000 barrels a day. IRPC (formerly TPI) also produces a variety of petrochemical products such as olefins, aromatics, polymer and polyol in Rayong. It also has a wharf and goods discharging services.