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Explosion causes huge fire at Bangkok refinery

05 July 2012

An explosion at an oil refinery in an industrial area of Bangkok sparked a massive fire early on July 4, sending a thick column of smoke into the air. Anusorn Sangnimnuan, the president of refinery operator Bangchak Petroleum, said there were no injuries.

The Bangchak refinery fire created a thick pall of smoke over the Thai capital
The Bangchak refinery fire created a thick pall of smoke over the Thai capital

“We assume oil or gas leaked out and somehow it caught fire. I don't think the cause was human error, it was caused by equipment,” he said.

The massive blaze sent plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky and local authorities handed out masks to thousands of people to stop them from breathing in the acrid smoke. 

Pongsawat Sawadiwat, the Minister of Industry, closed the refinery for at least 30 days whilst the cause is being determined and appropriate repairs made. 

The refinery is Thailand’s largest, processing 120,000 barrels of oil per day. Repairs will be made as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of a disruption to oil supplies. 

The incident prompted Bangkok's governor to speak of the possibiliy of relocating the refinery to the city outskirts from its current site in an industrial area situated in a densely populated suburb.

The refinery was built 50 years ago in what was then the periphery of the city, but as Bangkok's population expanded it has become encircled by several neighbourhoods, stoking fears over the potential safety risk it poses to the public.

"In the past, the Bangchak refinery was outside of town but now there are millions people around here," Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said.

"My dream is to receive cooperation from Bangchak to move out from here so that we could turn this place into a public park... but this is the dream for future, not today."

The oil refinery employs around 600 people and processes tens of thousands of barrels of fuel each day.

In May an explosion at a chemical factory in eastern Thailand killed 12 people, injured more than 100 and spewed plumes of toxic smoke into the air.


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