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Damaged cracker will not restart until September

27 July 2009

A violent explosion occurred on Wednesday 15th July at 3:15 p.m at the Total Petrochemicals France plant in Carling-Saint-Avold. Two people were killed in the accident and six others were seriously injured.
The accident occurred during operations to restart the steamcracker that produces petrochemical feedstocks, such as ethylene and propylene. The cracker was in the process of being shut down following recent storms, when a steam generator exploded.

Total Petrochemicals France plant in Carling-Saint-Avold.
Total Petrochemicals France plant in Carling-Saint-Avold.

The plant has been secured and there is no risk of pollution.

The explosion came 15 days after the trial ended in the case of the September 2001 Total AZF factory explosion in Toulouse that killed 31 and injured 2,500. Two accidents at Total since the beginning of the year have cost workers’ lives. One worker succumbed to poisonous gas on July 4th at Total Provence, and another died after the explosion of a gas truck in a workshop at Total Flandres on January 29th. Four workers were injured in the second accident.

This latest catastrophe is without doubt the most serious since the opening of the site in 1947.
Total engineers wanted to introduce new temperature measurement points to help them better understand the condition of the boiler and anticipate when it might need to be replaced. By measuring the internal and external temperature of the boiler walls and identifying heat loss, it is possible to calculate the material’s resistance and infer its thickness.

There is still not a sustainable hypothesis as to what caused the explosion, despite judicial authorities Taking over the investigation from the police on 20th July. Despite technical damage at the site being minimal, the company is avoiding a low-level start-up until September. Safety has top priority.

Total is a leading global oil and gas company with operations in more than 130 countries. Its 97,000 employees put their expertise to work across the industry, from oil and natural gas exploration and production to refining and marketing to gas, power and trading. Total is working to keep the world supplied with energy, both today and tomorrow. It is also a world-class chemical producer.

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