At 10:50 pm., an explosion occurred in the distillation column of an air separation unit (ASU) that provides oxygen to a petrochemical industy. The explosion caused 12 slight injuries and damage up to 5 km. The unit was destroyed, and surrounding units heavily damaged.
The ASU plant capacity was 2500 t/d of oxygen at 99.8% purity; it was put in service in 1991. The lower section of the low pressure column consisted of aluminium structured packing fitted in an internal shell.
The accident resulted from pollution of the LOX closed-loop due to particulate material in the air (intense forests fire at that time) and organic pollutants from the washing process. The hydrocarbon pollutant acted as an igniter and the fuel was aluminium in liquid oxygen. A similar explosion occurred a few months earlier in China (ARIA 11603).