Chemical manufacturers to halt some processing at New Year's : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Chemical manufacturers to halt some processing at New Year's

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A temporary halt in production on New Years Eve of a deadly chemical is among the precautions being taken by some leading manufacturers against toxic accidents and production foul-ups caused by Y2K computer trouble.

Chemical manufacturers are confident that plants and production systems are safe from computer glitches that threaten operations Jan. 1. But brief production halts are planned as a fail-safe measure.

Rhone-Poulenc, DuPont, Monsanto and Ashland Chemical all said they will idle some North American plant operations on the weekend when the calendar turns from 1999 to 2000.

``We feel secure that we're Y2K-compliant, but we made a decision that where prudent, we will not produce,'' said Tom Dover, support manager at the Institute, W.Va., plant where Rhone-Poulenc produces methyl isocyanate - the chemical that leaked from a pesticide plant at Bhopal, India, in 1984 and killed 3,000 people in the world's worst industrial accident.

He added: ``We're not going to operate those processes that have some of our highly hazardous materials in them.''

For the same reason, Rhone-Poulenc is also planning to eliminate its stockpiles of methyl isocyanate before the end of the year, Dover said.

Some experts fear that with the arrival of 2000, older computers that read only the last two digits of a year might mistake the year for 1900, causing shutdowns and malfunctions.

The chemical companies want to avoid not only accidents but also ruined batches of chemicals if computers shut down or if power and other utilities are interrupted.

The New Year's Eve shutdowns go beyond the way many companies often suspend operations over holiday weekends. Many chemical companies normally run at least some of their plants around the clock every day of the year.

Certain chemical processing operations at Ashland's 15 U.S. plants will not operate from Friday night until Monday morning ``to take extra precautions,'' spokesman Jim Vitak said.

Because New Year's Day is on a Saturday, companies expect production shutdowns will cause few problems and not be excessively expensive, Vitak said.

Monsanto will halt production for about eight hours before and after midnight on Dec. 31, said John Ogens, director of the company's Global Year 2000 Project.

Paul Couvillion, global director for DuPont's Year 2000 Project, said managers at each of the company's 321 production units worldwide will decide whether to idle all or portions of the plants.

Sean Clancy, spokesman for Union Carbide Corp. in Danbury, Conn., said the manufacturer does not expect shutdowns at any of its seven plants in the United States.

Union Carbide built the pesticide plant at Bhopal, and paid a $470 million settlement in 1989 for the accident. (end)

-- Deborah (, October 01, 1999


You mean someone actually has enough common sense to consider safety? Hurrah - that's rare! Some of those chemicals seem like they can be even more deadly than the nukes. Glad they're being smart.

-- @ (@@@.@), October 01, 1999.

This article is hte lead article in my local paper this morning, not heretfore known for its overabundance ofg Y2K news. Accompanying the chem article is the AP story about the Transportation Department's travel warnings, noting that Sen. Dodd was miffed about the sketchy information provided.

-- Old Git (, October 01, 1999.

I wonder how you ELIMINATE stockpiles of methyl isocyanate before the end of the year?

Some worst case scenarios are mentioned here and supposedly they have over 200,000 pounds of the stuff.

-- Linda (, October 01, 1999.

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