City refinery explosion, the second in 18 months

Yesterday's fire at a major Bangkok oil refinery, the second in 18 months, is raising questions about the wisdom of having such a facility in residential area.

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Fire, explosion at Bangchak refinery

Supoj Wancharoen,
Yuthana Praiwan
Apinya Wipatayotin

Anusorn Sangnimnuan (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

Bangchak Petroleum has shut down its oil refinery in Bangkok's Sukhumvit Soi 64 for a week and an 80,000 barrel-per-day crude distillation unit for at least 30 days following a fire and explosion at the plant on Wednesday morning.

It was the second fire at the soi 64 refinery in 18 months.

The explosion about 7.30am in an industrial zone in inner Bangkok surrounded by residential areas set off towering flames and sent two columns of thick black smoke into the sky that could be seen across the capital.

It is the second, recent such accident at the refinery. A fire in January last year was believed to have been caused by an oxygen pipe leak.

Bangchak spokeswoman Chaveewan Kiatchokchaikul said late on Wednesday morning that no injuries were reported in the blaze, which had been brought under control.

Bangchak Petroleum Plc president Anusorn Sangnimnuan said total damage was estimated at up to 100 million baht.

It was covered by insurance and would not hurt revenue, Mr Anusorn said.

He said other units at the 120,000 barrel-a-day facilty were not damaged and will be restarted in a week's time.

Mr Anusorn said the company "still has confidence in the safety system and will continue using the Bangkok refinery".

Fuel sales in Bangkok will not be disrupted because the company has a stock of three billion litres that would last for two months, he added.

Pongsvas Svasti (Photo by Pattarachai Preechapanich)

Industry Minister Pongsvas Svasti said there might have been a leak in a gas pipeline and this could have been the source of the explosion and fire.

MR Pongsvas said the situation had been brought quickly under control. People in nearby communities did not panic and they had not been evacuated, he said.

However, nearby schools were closed today.

He was relieved that emergency units were able to promptly bring the situation under control and that the warning system was fully functional.

Asked about the fire's affect on investor confidence, he admitted that the country has not been very serious about safety standards.

"Motorcycle riders don't even wear helmets here and there's a long way to go to educate people [about safety standards]," the minister said.

He said he would discuss plans for relocating the Bangchak oil refinery or nearby communities with Energy Minister Arak Chonlatanon.

Nearby communities should be moved 100 to 200 metres away from the fence surrounding the refinery, but there were also three or four other factories near the site, he said.

The Bangchak oil refinery, which employs around 600 people, is located in a large industrial estate in a sprawling suburb and is among the country's largest refineries.

refinery – a factory where a substance such as oil is refined (= made pure)  โรงกลั่น
crude – oil that is still in its natural state and has not yet been refined for use by chemical processes ซึ่งระมัดระวัง
distillation – making a liquid pure by heating it until it becomes a gas, then cooling it and collecting the drops of liquid that form การกลั่น
unit – a part of a company or organisation that carries out a particular function; a group of people who work or live together, especially for a particular purpose หน่วย,กอง,กลุ่ม
plant – a factory that produces power or processes chemicals, etc. โรงงาน
zone – an area that has an important or typical feature; an area where a particular activity is allowed or not allowed พื้นที่, บริเวณ, เขต
surrounded – having something completely around all sides ถูกล้อมรอบ
residential area – a place where people live เขตที่อยู่อาศัย
towering – very high or tall สูงลิ่ว, สูงตระหง่าน, สูงเสียดเมฆ
flames – the brightly burning gases that you see coming from a fire เปลวไฟ, เปลวเพลิง
column – a thing shaped like a column (a tall, solid, vertical post, usually round), in this case a column of smoke เสากลม
capital – the most important town or city of a country, usually where the central government operates from  เมืองหลวง
recent – happening or starting a short time ago  เร็วๆ นี้
leak – (of a liquid or gas) flowing out of a hole or crack การรั่วไหล
injury – physical damage done to a person or a part of their body อาการบาดเจ็บ
blaze – a large fire that cause a lot of damage เพลิง
estimated – thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available ประมาณการ
insurance – an arrangement in which you regularly pay an insurance company an amount of money so that they will give you money if something you own is damaged, lost, or stolen, or if you die or are ill or injured การประกัน
revenue – income from taxes or business activities รายได้
facility – a building used for a particular purpose โรงงาน, สถานบริการ, สิ่งก่อสร้าง, สิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก
confidence – the quality of being certain ความมั่นใจ
disrupted – interrupted and prevented from continuing smoothly by creating problems ขัดขวาง
stock – an amount of something that you keep so that you can use it when you need it ที่เก็บไว้ในสต๊อก
source – the cause of something – ต้นกำเนิด
community – the people living in one particular area ชุมชน
panic – to have a sudden strong feeling of fear or worry that causes you to be unable to think clearly or calmly ตื่นตกใจ
evacuate – to cause to leave a place because it is not safe เคลื่อนย้ายออกจาก
relieved – happy that something unpleasant has not happened or has ended โล่งใจ, เบาใจ, หมดกังวล, ผ่อนคลาย
emergency – of an unexpected situation involving danger in which immediate action is necessary เหตุฉุกเฉิน
promptly – in an immediate or quick way ทันที
functional – able to be used ใช้การได้
investor – a person or organisation that invests money, i.e., uses money with the aim of making a profit from it, for example by buying property or buying shares in a company นักลงทุน
admit – to agree that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it  ยอมรับ
standard – a level of quality มาตรฐาน
helmet – a strong hard hat that covers and protects the head หมวกกันน็อก
relocate – to move something to a new place ย้ายที่ใหม่
site – a place where something is located  สถานที่
employ – to have someone work or do a job for you and pay them for it ว่าจ้าง, จ้าง
located – where something is ตั้งอยู่
industrial estate – an area of land where industrial companies have their buildings นิคมอุตสาหกรรม
sprawling – built over a wide area in a way that is not carefully planned
suburb – an area or town near a large city but away from its centre ชานเมือง

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About the author

Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager