A leak of butylene mixture which ignited from sparks from an angle grinder is a possible cause of the BASF explosion in October.
The District Attorney of Frankenthal/Palatinate and the Police Headquarters of Rheinpfalz found that a cut was made in a pipeline with a cutting disc. Maintenance work using an angle grinder was in progress on an adjacent pipeline and the cut pipeline was not part of this work.
BASF says that according to the current, preliminary evaluation, the possible chain of events could be that the butylene mixture in the cut pipeline leaked out and ignited due to the sparks produced by the angle grinder. This could have lead to the fire and the resulting explosion.
Two employees of the BASF fire department and an employee of a tanker which was anchored in the harbour died as a result of the fire and explosion on October 17.
Another employee of the BASF fire department who was severely injured in the explosion died on October 29. Seven people were seriously injured and another 22 suffered slight injuries. Four of the seriously injured have been released from hospital.
BASF has commissioned an independent expert to analyse the accident, which will look at the sequence of events and the cause of the incident. It involve the investigation of the safety of the affected pipelines and the occupational safety measures.
Additionally, BASF has commissioned a report by an independent expert for the safety-related assessment of the long-distance pipelines. Experts from the state criminal police are looking into the circumstances of the accident. Their investigations centre on the maintenance procedures and the safety measures that were carried out prior to the maintenance work.
The company is in the process of restarting all plants that were halted following the incident. Individual pipelines are still sealed off and the main parts of the harbour are still not operational as repair and remediation work at the North Harbour will take several months.
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