Economics Minister: Pipelines in culvert ‘unbelievable’
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-06 02:57 PM
A joint meeting of the Economic, Interior and Finance Committees of the Legislative Yuan Wednesday was slated to make a detailed review of a bill on Special Regulations Regarding Free Economic Pilot Zones, but the topic of discussion quickly turned to last week’s explosions in Kaohsiung. On Friday Deputy Minister of Economics Woody Duh had said the ministry would study data related to the incident, and on Wednesday Minister of Economics Chang Chia-juch told legislators that he has seen design plans for the drainage system which show that pipelines for carrying petrochemical products were to bypass box culverts intended to carry away rainwater and other effluent in the area. Chang declined to make a judgment on the placement of the pipelines, saying, "When were these culverts put in place? How were they laid out? That remains to be confirmed." The minister added bluntly that box culverts are for draining rainwater and other runoff and have no other intended use.

Examination of the layout where the first explosions occurred late July 31 showed three pipelines that had been routed through a culvert, giving rise to questions as to whether water and other materials flowing through the culvert might have caused corrosion in the pipelines that led to a rupture.

Chang said he could not make that conclusion as some of the exposed pipelines have definitely not leaked. He added that petrochemical pipelines are treated with a cathodic corrosion prevention process and must be buried underground. If they are exposed to the air, he said, the effects of the anti-corrosion process are negated.

"So how could anyone have designed this pipeline to run through the culvert?” he asked. “That is simply incredible."

Chang addressed Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s decree that pipelines in the affected area would never be buried again by saying he is certain the industry will develop alternate routes for placing the lines for petrochemicals underground. He noted that using tanker trucks to carry the materials would be both very dangerous and uneconomical and the ministry would never recommend such a change. He said that in the future the companies involved should discuss with the municipal government how to route the pipelines to minimize the danger and the cost.

Chang told the legislators regulations governing management of propylene have largely been overlooked in current laws on the books. He said that both the Petroleum Management Laws and Regulations and the Gas Management Law contain very specific rules for handling liquids and gases, but the laws need to be amended to include regulations governing management of propylene and other materials not presently covered.

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