Fire at BASF’s German plant started by a cut pipeline


As a result of an explosion and subsequent fires at BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen, on Monday, 17 October, two employees from the company’s internal fire department and a seaman of a tanker anchored in the harbour died in the fire. Eight people were seriously injured, 22 others were slightly injured.

“Our deepest sympathy is with their families and friends. Many people were injured, some of them severely. Our thoughts are with them and their families and friends. We hope that they are on the way to recovery,” said Kurt Bock, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF at a press conference in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

The fire started when a specialised pipeline construction company conducted assembly works on a deflated and secured ethylene pipeline route to exchange several parts of the pipeline as a preventive maintenance measure.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney of Frankenthal/Palatinate and the Police Headquarters of Rheinpfalz announced the following information on the progress of the investigation: “In the course of intensive investigations directly at the scene of the incident, it has been established that there was a cut made in a pipeline. This was apparently done with a cutting disc. Maintenance work using an angle grinder was in progress on an adjacent pipeline.

The cut pipeline was not part of this work. This pipeline contained flammable raffinate.”

According to the current, preliminary evaluation, the cut pipeline contained a butylene mixture. BASF assumes that this butylene mixture leaked out and ignited due to the sparks produced by the angle grinder. This could have led to the fire, which caused the described explosion. BASF says it will continue to support the relevant authorities during the investigation into the cause of the accident.

The pipelines that burned included those used for ethylene, propylene, a butylene product mix (raffinate), pyrolysis gasoline and ethylhexanol.

The company also says that that there were no elevated levels of hazardous substances, as confirmed by the environmental ministry of Rheinland-Pfalz and the city of Ludwigshafen.

BASF goes on to add, “Safety is the first priority on the Ludwigshafen site as well as globally at BASF. Environmental protection, health and safety are important components of the corporate values and objectives. BASF acts responsibly and always gives priority to safety when operating existing plants or planning and constructing new plants. During the past ten years, more investments have been made yearly in the Ludwigshafen site than depreciated. As a result the company has been able to renew more than one-third of the fixed assets on-site, thus making it safer and sustainable. Additionally a total of 10 billion euro has been invested in maintenance and repair, increasing annually.”

Due to the fire, the raw material supply of the steam crackers was halted; but since then the steam crackers have started production. In the coming weeks the remaining plants will be gradually restarted, BASF says, adding that it is evaluating various measures to minimise the impact on customer deliveries.


Copyright (c) 2016 www.plasticsandrubberasia.com. All rights reserved.