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Plant explosion refuels public concern over PX

Nina Ying Sun | PLASTICS NEWS CHINA

An April 6 explosion at a paraxylene plant in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, has been the second safety incident at the highly controversial PX facility in China.

Six people were injured in the blast, which, according to local media, started around 7 p.m. local time at a fuel storage facility.

Hundreds of firefighters from the local department and nearby cities spent 21 hours to temporarily put out the fire. But the blaze returned a few hours later. Chinese military and medical experts were dispatched from other regions to help control possible environmental and health hazards.

The facility is owned and operated by Taiwanese-invested Dragon Aromatics (Zhangzhou) Co. Ltd., one of the largest independent PX producers in China. PX is a building block for PET resin and fiber.

The 800,000-metric-ton project was originally planned for Xiamen, the capital city for Fujian province. Despite the approval by China's central government, large investment, and promises to boost local GDP, local residents persistently protested the project and eventually forced Dragon Aromatics to relocate it to Zhangzhou instead. Zhangzhou is about an hour west of Xiamen and is less economically developed and culturally renowned.

The Zhangzhou project started construction in 2009, but before it even went on stream in 2013, it was fined by environmental protection agencies for unapproved feedstock change, from naphtha to condensate.

The plant had a smaller explosion in 2013.

The facility was not in production but rather at the end of a three week maintenance service project when the incident happened yesterday.

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