PX Plant Explosion Sparks Echoes of Warnings Past

Author: Yu Dawei,Caixin

The massive explosion at a chemical factory in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province is likely to reinforce mounting public distrust towards the government's oversight of petrochemical projects. But as the fallout from the disaster continues to brew, regulators must bring factories in line with international practices of safety oversight to control the damage.

The blast broke out at the Dragon Aromatics Plant [owned by Taiwanese petrochemical group Xianglu], a paraxylene, or PX, producer on the night of March 6 in the city of Zhangzhou, on the Gulei Peninsula. Locals said the jolt released by the blast was felt some 30 kilometers away from the site of the explosion…Authorities gave conflicting reports on the number injured, which have been put at a few to more than a dozen. Preliminary investigations show that the blast was traced to an oil leak.

Paraxylene is a chemical used in manufacturing polyester clothing and plastic bottles, and has been found to damage the nervous system and abdominal organs if inhaled or absorbed through the skin…The explosion has reignited debate over PX projects in China, which can be dated back to 2007.

The PX plant in Zhangzhou was initially slated for construction in Xiamen, but a rare mass protest in 2007 forced local authorities to drop the multi-billion yuan project.


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