At a site dedicated to recycling polyethylene terephthalate for the production of polyol/polyester foam, fire broke out in the PET bottle feed chute connecting the first reactor (containing glycols and a catalyst) while conducting process management validation tests under actual conditions involving product and temperature. The combustible lining used to soundproof the chute contributed to the rapid spread of flames in the newly-established unit. Technicians reinforced the inerting process on the reactor (N2) and used 12 powder extinguishers to bring this inaccessible blaze under control. As a preventive measure, fire-fighters sprinkled powder over the entire accident zone and protected the methanol tankers by a water curtain. The accident was facilitated by: extended opening of the bottle introduction valve, the presence of oxygen and glycols in the chute, a glycol mix temperature near the self-ignition temperature, and catalyst traces inside the chute. Property damage was appraised at 3 million francs (operating losses: 2 million francs). Both the installations and procedures were modified: removal of chute lining, heavier braids, rearrangement of catalyst introduction, revision of the setting control, replacement of the bottle feed system leading to the reactor by a continuous and sealed process. The cost of site renovation works undertaken amounted to 400,000 francs.

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