Investigators and top officials of HPCL are totally clueless about the cause of the deadly explosion at the Visakh Refinery on Friday which led to the collapse of cooling tower forcing the company to scale down production to 40 per cent of its rated capacity.
Preliminary inquiries by fire and forensic experts and the high-power committee headed by Oil Industry Safety Directorate Executive Director Hirak Dutta have not revealed anything.
“The cause still baffles us. The reason for the blast triggered by an unprecedented surge of hydrocarbons in the cooling tower is yet to be ascertained,” HPCL Chairman-cum-Managing Director S. Roy Choudhury said on Monday.
Asked to comment on the findings of the investigation so far, he told The Hindu that “in fact such an accident is first of its kind in the world history. A blast of this kind in the cooling tower in unheard of”. He hastened to add that they would conduct an in-depth study into what went wrong and take corrective measures, whatsoever required, and initiate stringent action against those found responsible.
Mr. Choudhury said the Dutta Panel would submit its preliminary report to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas within 15 days. He said their production had been curtailed to 40 per cent of rated capacity due to the accident which forced shutting down of two units.
The blast occurred at the cooling tower which is part of Rs. 2,500-crore diesel hydro de-sulphurisation unit – aimed at supplying Euro-4 compliant fuel to Visakhapatnam and other markets by March, 2014. Because of the incident, the deadline would be extended.
To hit expansion
The August-23 blast would also upset the efforts to expand the capacity of the Visakh Refinery from 8.3 million tonne to 15 million tonne with an estimated cost of Rs. 12,000 crore. The proposal is awaiting clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Mr. Choudhury said once normalcy was restored they would revive efforts for expansion by creating world-class facilities for nine million tonne phasing out some of the old units.
He said their proposal to set up a Greenfield refinery and petrochemical complex near Atchutapuram in PCPIR would be expedited with a total investment of Rs. 50,000 crore. They had come to an understanding for partnering with IOC and GAIL and scouting for collaboration with some foreign companies.