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Petrochemical plant explosion kills four, injures four in South Korea

15 February 2022

An explosion at a petrochemical plant in the city of Yeosu, South Korea killed four people and injured four others on February 11. The blast involved a naphtha-fed steam cracker at the Yeochun Naphtha Cracking Center (YNCC), around 198 miles (320km) south of Seoul.

A YNCC plant in Yeosu - Image: Shutterstock
A YNCC plant in Yeosu - Image: Shutterstock

The incident happened at around 09:26 when police and firefighters were called to the scene. According to reports, the explosion occurred during a leak test as part of a cleaning process that is carried out every four years at the plant.

All production at the plant was ordered to be halted following the blast by South Korea’s Labour Ministry. The plant where the incident happened is the newest of three YNCC facilities which convert naptha into raw materials for the manufacture of chemicals and plastics. The cracking unit produces around 470,000 tonnes of ethylene a year.

On February 14, police and labour ministry officials raided offices at the site to gather evidence as part of an investigation to discover whether YNCC violated any safety regulations. The incident came just days after a new law, the Serious Disasters Punishment Act, was introduced in South Korea on January 27 which aims to punish the management of companies that are responsible for workplace accidents.

As a result of the explosion, YNCC could be the first petrochemical company to be punished under the new workplace law which can see owners and CEOs facing a minimum of one-year prison sentences or a fine of up to 1 billion won (£617,000) in the wake of serious workplace accidents. It is reported that Ministry of Employment and Labor officials began searching YNCC’s offices to see if the new law applied to the company as a result of the blast.

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