More refinery explosions : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


-- michelle (, May 23, 1999


Hot link, PLEASE ..... Anyone ?? Eagle

-- Hal Walker (, May 23, 1999.

There are two articles, one is a follow up on the Korean Explosion and the other is an explosion in Zambia.

  CNN - Fierce fire knocks out Zambia's oil refinery - May 18, 1999

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) -- A fierce fire has put Zambia's only fuel refinery out of action, threatening supplies to its lifeblood copper mines and the neighbouring war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, a minister said on Tuesday.

Eric Silwamba, presidential affairs minister, told Reuters in Johannesburg by telephone that the Italian-built 24,000 barrels per day (bpd) Indeni plant will be down for up to eight months, forcing Zambia to import oil products.

"The damage is quite extensive. We estimate that the plant will be shut down for between seven and eight months. It will be necessary to import finished product," Eric Silwamba, presidential affairs minister, told Reuters by telephone.

The fire late on Monday at Indeni, in Ndola, the provincial capital of Zambia's copper region, damaged the primary distillation unit and the main crude pipeline supplying the refinery from the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam.

"It will take us several months to repair what has so far been destroyed," Silwamba said.

Witnesses reached by telephone in Ndola told Reuters that it took firefighters more than two hours to bring the blaze under control.

Silwamba said experts from the Zambia police and the intelligence services had been dispatched to Ndola from the capital Lusaka to investigate the cause of the fire.

He said some witnesses had spoken of two loud blasts before the refinery went up in flames.

"We are keeping our minds open. This could be a mere industrial accident, it could be anything but we will wait for the investigations to be complete before making public pronouncements," he added.


Korean Refinery Fire Boosts Asian Prices

Yahoo! News
           & nbsp;          & nbsp;          & nbsp;      Business Headlines

Thursday May 13 6:08 AM ET

Korean Refinery Fire Boosts Asian Prices

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A fire in a key unit of South Korea's Ulsan oil
refinery, the world's biggest, sent Asian gas oil prices soaring Thursday.

SK Corp, which operates the Ulsan refinery which has official capacity of
810,000 barrels per day, said Thursday a fire broke out at a 30,000-bpd unit
making kerosene and gas oil.

The news sent gas oil prices on Singapore's over-the-counter swaps market
surging more than three percent soon after the news broke.

The shutdown means the refinery will produce less kerosene and diesel.

June gas oil swaps were quoted at 0900 GMT $16.90 per barrel in late afternoon
trading in Singapore -- the center of Asian trading -- up from $16.35 late
Wednesday and compared to falling prices in other oil products and crude.

Diesel tends to be the most price sensitive oil product in Asia because of its wide
uses in transportation, industry, agriculture, shipping and power generation.

The news knocked fuel oil prices from the highs of the day's trading because the
shutdown implied the refinery would not need to process so much fuel oil.

June swaps were quoted late in the afternoon at $84.30 per ton, down 75 cents
from the intraday high.

Shares in SK Corp ended the day down 800 won at 24,900, a drop on the day of
3.1 percent.

A spokesman for SK Corp said the fire broke out at 0510 GMT in a 30,000-bpd
hydrocracker, which uses fuel oil to make middle distillates and an associated
30,000-bpd desulphuriser unit which makes low sulphur fuel oil.

Both units are used to make high value oil products.

The fire was brought under control within two hours. The company said two or
three people were injured but had no other details immediately.

Hydrocrackers can be volatile because highly flammable hydrogen is at the center
of the process to break down the feedstock into premium oil products.

SK Corp, which has a 34-percent market share in South Korea, said the rest of
the refinery was operating normally and it did not expect any disruption to
domestic supplies as a result of the fire.

A company statement said it has stocks to cover any shortfall in supply that
would arise from the shutdown of the unit, and the country was entering a low
demand season anyhow.

The unit hit by the fire was due to shut down for maintenance work on May 23
for 25 days of maintenance work.

South Korea is one of Asia's biggest exporters of oil products, so loss of supply
could be a blow for the market. However, gas oil prices had been falling this
week owing to a general perception of ample available supplies.

In February, South Korea exported 8.3 million barrels of gas oil, up 44 percent
from January exports but down 29 percent from February last year.

The country's export impact on Asia was greater last year because the refineries
-- with combined output of some 2.5 million bpd -- diverted oil products to the
export market from the domestic market owing to the economic downturn.

But with the Korean economy strengthening this year, there is more domestic
demand for oil.

-- Brian (, May 23, 1999.

Well, at least it's not California, again. Our unleaded has "dropped" to $1.60 a gal. and I am looking forward to its return from the stratosphere.

-- marsh (, May 24, 1999.

This is bad. The only good news is that it seems limited to somewhat smaller refineries. I hope the industry folks are getting off their butts and starting to look at this more closely. I hope I still have time to complete all of my preps.

-- nothere nothere (, May 24, 1999.

I spent seven years working at a refinery. I know SOMEONE will want to know which one, so I'll spell it out: AMOCO OIL Refinery in Whiting, Indiana. I was a systems programmer there for seven years. It was the only place I've EVER worked where it was acceptable to smoke INSIDE the office building, but NOT outside (for obvious reasons.)

The explosions and fires occur all the time. The fire-alarm bells rang at least once/week. The only time they make press-coverage are when they're so overwhelming that the on-site fire personnel can't control the fire in time for the locals to call the media. This happened TWICE in the seven years I was there.

I guess I just have to wonder what the point is in a discussion of this as relating to Y2k.


-- Anita Spooner (, May 24, 1999.

Thanks for beating me to it. I was going to ask the same question but let me give you a sampling of the retorts. "Everything that happens this year is related to Y2K". "This has to do with our supply system and the shortages we'll find next year". I'm sure a has a few.

-- Maria (, May 24, 1999.


You're probably right. I'm sure others will dispute that I ever worked there anyway. Afterall, I DON'T have a link to it.


-- Anita Spooner (, May 24, 1999.


How many times did the fire shut down the plant for seven or eight months?

It doesn't sound like it happened very often.

An earlier thread reported an average of 2.3 refinery fires per year during the years 1996-1998. So far this year? I count seven. If I were not checking this site I would have only heard about two in California.

You know how complicated a system an oil refinery is. I've only toured one for Pennzoil in Western Pennsylvania. You can stick your head in the sand and pretend that there are enough refineries in the world that will not be affected by Y2K. If you wanted to be useful, you could provide people on this site with information regarding how many bpd of capacity there exists in U.S. and world refineries and how many of them would have to be put out of commision for there to be a serious impact on U.S. or world daily oil consumption.

Thank you in advance.

-- nothere nothere (, May 25, 1999.

Ms. Spooner,

Thanks for some rare first-person information.

>>I guess I just have to wonder what the point is in a discussion of this as relating to Y2k.<<

IMHO, your answer reaches deeper into the essence of the question than most others. I don't see this subject as a doomer/polly thing or as an exercise in paranoia. I want to know if there really is any Y2K connection to what appear to be not only unusually frequent but exceptionally disastrous oil refinery fires. You seem to be saying that since fires/explosions happen all the time, there is no reason to believe these reports are Y2K related *at all*. Is this justified?

Could you provide additional info regarding the nature of the programming you performed? Any interfaces to embeddeds? How prevalent are embeddeds in refineries? Any knowledge, anecdotes or SWAG's regarding Y2K susceptibilities for the industry?

My experience and expertise are in the power industry and mainframe/PC hardware in combination. My take is that power distribution is fragile without taking Y2k into consideration. Actual margins and safety factors are nowhere near the published numbers. *Now* factor in Y2K and it's "Houston, we have a problem." I live within 35 miles of a metropolitan area, so we're not talking boonies here. But, because of my background, I have noticed a marked increase in both the frequency and duration of electrical outages over the course of the last 12 months. I find this to be indicative but certainly not conclusive.

My hope is that the oil industry is much better positioned. But, you tell me.

-- Elbow Grease (, May 25, 1999.

This response is for nothere and Elbow-Grease:

I would think that the American Petroleum Institute would be better qualified to answer your questions than I. Their Y2k information starts at:

Continue to follow the link they provide at the end of this site, and I'm sure your questions will be answered....if not HERE, in the links provided that go into even more detail. You may have to wonder where you began after you reach the detailed information you're looking for.

Nothere: I'm quite sure you were dazzled by your refinery tour. I was privy to MANY tours during my seven-year stint. Our tours were more piecemeal in nature, however, as they didn't want us away from our posts for TOO long.

No, I never saw a fire shut down the refinery for an extended period. Fires are typically isolated to ONE unit, and a refinery has MANY units. I do understand, however, that strikes pretty much shut the refinery down for extended periods. The administrative staff was provided food, beds, etc. and each assigned a task of which they were TOTALLY unfamiliar. A secretary, for instance, might be assigned a job on a cat-cracker or a fork-lift. Since I was a contractor, I didn't have to get involved in that one. I suppose it would have been fun to take a crash-course in something new, but I had small children at home at the time and I would have been estranged from them for MONTHS.

Elbow-Grease: I was a systems programmer on their VSE mainframe. I handled CICS, VSE, VM, and all the peripherals. Of COURSE embedded chips ABOUNDED. The problems with remediation were exactly as stated in another thread here. They replaced ONE component just to find out that it was incompatible with another component...replaced THAT component just to find out that it was incompatible with another component. All that happened last year or the year before, however.

Do I think the increase in fires are related to Y2k? I would more likely suspect lack of maintenance. The EPA took a lot of money from refineries to clean up messes they'd made. They didn't want to "waste" more money upgrading old units unless really necessary.

Regarding the increase in electrical outages, I've noticed them here also. I think I already remarked on how one (in particular) had the neighbors wondering if Y2k was involved. Again, (not to sound like I have my "head in the sand"), I would suggest that these are coinciding with an increased burden on the system. It's hot here in Texas right now. The metroplex has experienced such a growth in recent years that there were times LAST year that they almost couldn't keep up with the demand. I think this year is simply the demand that broke the camel's back.

Hope you folks get the answers you're looking for. My experience at that job-site is about 10 years old.


-- Anita Spooner (, May 25, 1999.

Thanks for responding Anita.

Please permit a short rebuttal.

The API link was great, but the Y2K info was very "Happy Face". We've been doing this for a long time and 94% response is good enough for us. I'm sure that the task forces of the API have worked hard to establish compliance, but their survey information didn't convince me that there won't be problems on the horizon.

I did find their home page useful, but I'll have to spend around $1,000 to obtain the supply and demand info I had asked you for originally. I'd rather spend the money on preps, but if there are other sources to look it up, I'm open to other links.

I wasn't exactly dazzled by the refinery tour, just impressed at how safety conscious they were and how clean everything was for an industrial site. Nevertheless, the quantity of pipes and valves and meters is considerable.

The fires reported in California, Korea, and Zambia have put the refineries out of commission for months. I'm sure it was fun for the administrative types to have a chance to try out new jobs, but replacing workers overnight or in a week is a lot different from replacing several sections of blown-out pipes, or even replacing whole units which have been destroyed.

As for the EPA, it doesn't exist in Korea or Zambia, so its money grab can't really be the cause either, can it?

I'm still looking for answers. Elbow Grease?

-- nothere nothere (, May 25, 1999.

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