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Something blew up in Moerdijk again

05 June 2014 - Chemical industry

And another chemical explosion hit the Dutch town of Moerdijk this week, home to a considerable amount of chemical industry. This time the culprit was Shell with a facility located by coincidence in the same industrial park as the now infamous Chemie-Pack as reported about earlier. A series of explosions were heard seen for miles around and late at night on 3 June (NRC). Luckily no one died.

According to this source the facility operates a steam cracker producing large quantities of ethylene, propene and benzene. In addition to that it produces propene oxide and its derivative ethylene glycol and also styrene. This operation takes place at the end of a pipeline that starts from the oil refineries of Shell Pernis in port-city Rotterdam.

The main cause of the explosion was the ignition of a large quantity of ethylbenzene. The presence of this compound makes sense as it is produced from ethylene and benzene and is the raw material for the production of styrene. The cause of the ignition is not clear. Apparently the incident started with reactor that was out of commission due to maintenance. For some reason this reactor collapsed, releasing a quantity of an unknown liquid (possibly benzene or propylene oxide) which then caught fire (NRC).