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Records show at least 16 major petrochemical lines under Kaohsiung
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-04 05:22 PM
The Ministry of Economics and China Petroleum Corporation confirmed today that at least 16 major petrochemical pipelines run through the center of Kaohsiung, a revelation certain to unnerve residents following last week’s gas explosions that left 28 dead and more than 300 injured in the heart of the city.

The system of 16 lines includes the 4-inch acrylic line owned by LCY Chemical which the Kaohsiung City Government claims was the cause of the leak that caused the explosions. That one line stretches 23.2 km north and south through prime sections of Kaohsiung,

The explosions on Thursday have the central government and the Kaohsiung City Government scrambling along with companies in the petrochemical industry to look up information on what lines have been laid down in the city and where they run. Unfortunately the age of the pipes, sometimes-disorganized record keeping and a lack of readily available data mean that so far no one has been able to offer conclusive information on the layout of the transmission lines.

Data on pipelines buried prior to 1993 by the petrochemical industry is particularly hard to come by because of time involved, company re-organizations and other factors. CPC General Manager Paul Chen told reporters in Kaohsiung Monday that his company will provide more detailed information on the situation as soon as it becomes available.

Information on hand from the Ministry of Economics and CPC indicates that the petrochemical industry initiated a project in 1990 to develop a system of lines in the Tsoying-Kaohsiung Long-distance Pipeline program to replace older and disjointed sections running through the city at the time. This project would have included the four-inch propylene pipe that the Kaohsiung government has identified as the possible source of the gas involved in Thursday’s explosions

The information shows a surprisingly large network of pipelines which stretch right through the center of Kaohsiung City. The records reveal at least 16 major trunklines belonging to five major petrochemical firms including China Petroleum (CPC), Formosa Plastics (FPG), Asia Polymer, China Chemical (later China Petrochemical Development or CPDC) and Taiwan Polysilicon (later incorporated into LCY Chemical Corporation).

Officials at the MOE point out that these five corporations took action at the same time to update and streamline their lines through the streets of Kaohsiung. They obtained construction permits from the Kaohsiung City Government, and once construction was completed the pipelines were the property of the five businesses that built them.

Executives at CPC point out that 3.09% of the 16 pipelines laid down through Kaohsiung in the Tsoying-Kaohsiung project belonged to Taiwan Polysilicon. They note that Taiwan Polysilicon was the only company to install 4-inch pipes at the time. Taiwan Polysilicon was later acquired by LCY Chemical, the company at the center of controversy over which pipeline was directly responsible for the explosions.

MOE officials emphasize that the petrochemical industry’s move to replace its network of pipelines in Kaohsiung took place nearly a quarter of a century ago. The considerable length of time and changes in the industry and in individual companies since then make it difficult to obtain data on the lines. The ministry has asked members of the oil and petrochemical industry to marshal their forces to dig up information on the buried lines as soon as possible in order to determine the size of the pipeline network and make an accurate assessment of conditions throughout the entire system.

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