Kaohsiung detects 10 ppm propene at explosion site

Kaohsiung detects 10 ppm propene at explosion site
A general view shows the damaged road after the gas explosions in southern kaohsiung on August 1, 2014.

The Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau (EPA) yesterday morning detected 10 ppm (parts per million) of propene on the Ersheng Road - one of the locations where gas explosions took place, saying that, however, the cause of the blasts is yet to be determined.

According to the Central Emergency Operation Center, as of yesterday 6 p.m., the gas explosions on Thursday have claimed 26 lives and injured 269 people. Two citizens are reported missing.

A total of 4.4 kilometers of road in the port city was damaged by the blasts. The government has suspended natural gas supply to over 23,000 households in Kaohsiung, adding that water and electricity services were also temporarily suspended, according to the Executive Yuan.

Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch told a press conference yesterday morning that based on an initial evaluation, a propene leak from an underground pipeline may have been the cause of the explosions, stressing that, however, the incident still requires further investigation.

Abnormal Propene Pipeline Pressure

The Kaohsiung Labor Affairs Bureau on Friday morning said that it went to the state-owned gasoline supplier CPC Corp.'s gas distribution centre in the Cianjhen district of Kaohsiung and discovered there were abnormalities in the pressure on a four-inch propene pipeline between Thursday 8:40 p.m. and 9 p.m. The bureau said it has transferred the relevant records to the investigators.

The CPC later responded to the bureau's discovery, saying that the pipe that showed abnormal pressure does not belong to the company. The CPC further said that it received reports of gas leaks on Thursday night between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., noting that it had dispatched personnel to inspect all the CPC gas pipelines and the results were all normal.

The CPC went on to say that the firm's ethylene pipelines that run underground in the port city did not leak ethylene before the incidents happened. The state-owned firm pointed out that there is a gas pipeline that belongs to the LCY Chemical Corp. and China General Terminal & Distribution Corporation (CGTD) located under the explosion sites.

Kaohsiung's Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Chen Chin-der said that the bureau has established that a major propene leak caused the multiple gas explosions. Chen pointed out that the pressure in the LCY Chemical piping system used to channel propene was abnormal starting at around 8 p.m. Thursday night and that 3.77 metric tons of the gas leaked between 8 and 9 p.m. alone.

LCY Chemical said yesterday that its pipelines in Kaohsiung were still functioning and it was not the one responsible for the explosion. A spokeswoman of the company showed photos from the explosion sites, pointing out that the pipes involved are of a bigger size than those used by the company. LCY Chemical Chairman Lee Mou-wei said the company will cooperate with the authorities and will accept all due responsibilities.

China Petrochemical Development Co. also distanced itself from the disaster, saying that it had nothing to do with the explosions and that its operations in Kaohsiung remain normal. The firm said that as a safety precaution it has gradually lowered the pressure in its propene pipelines in Kaohsiung.

National Cheng Kung University Department of Chemistry professor Chen Chuh-yung said that Kaohsiung is an important city for Taiwan's industrial development, noting that the underground pipelines are high in density. Many of the pipelines were installed decades ago, Chen said, adding that even a luxury house could have gas pipelines under the ground.

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