Refinery fires cost Engen R200-million

Two separate fires and the subsequent repairs at Durban’s Engen Refinery have cost the company close to R200-million rand, refinery spokesperson Herb Payne said on Tuesday.

However, while the cost of the blaze is known to the company, the eThekwini municipality has yet to release the results of air-quality assessment tests taken at the time of the blaze.

In November last year, a bolt of lightning apparently struck a large petrol tank at the refinery—situated on the Bluff, south of Durban—causing a massive fire.

The 45m high petrol tank contained 7,5-million litres of petrol and had been 80% full at the time of the fire. Refinery workers later managed to salvage 40% of its contents.

The fire took more than three days to put out and several air tests were subsequently carried out by the city Health department.

More than a week later, a second fire broke out at the same refinery.

Engen’s Payne confirmed that a second fire had broken out in the vacuum unit of the plant due to a leaking flange (a joint in a pipe).

Now, more than two months later, Payne said the actual fires and the repairs carried out cost the company close to R200-million.

“Everything is back to normal but the tank that was struck by lightning was not repaired. It was too damaged,” he said.

He said the more costly fire was the one at the vacuum unit.

“The first fire did not affect our production process but the second one did,” he said.

The repairs took more than a month to complete.

Meanwhile, Siva Chetty, deputy head for the city health department, said he could not comment on the air test results as he did not have “a report on his table regarding it”.

The department’s head, Selvan Mudaly, said he could not speak at this time, as he was on leave.

Mudaly said that the results were available but that he could not release them.

He referred media enquiries to city manager Mike Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe on Tuesday confirmed that he was not in possession of the report.

Sutcliffe told the South African Press Association that he did not have any results and was still waiting for the report.

Mbulelo Baloyi, spokesperson for the provincial agriculture and environmental affairs department, said: “We are still waiting for a report from the city’s health department.”

Baloyi said city health officials had reported initial findings to his department on December 13 but that this was the last date of communication.

“They gave us their preliminary findings on what they had captured on the day of the first fire—and from what I recall, there was some mention of toxins being found in the air.
We were told that a report would be made available to us once the analysis was complete.”

Baloyi confirmed that they had not received any feedback since then.

Payne referred all media queries regarding the air test results to the city and said Engen was not authorised to comment on that matter.—Sapa

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