Updated: The death toll from an April 20 explosion at a vinyl chloride monomer/ethylene plant in Mexico has climbed to 24 with another eight workers reported missing.
It also may have a broader impact on Mexico's chloralkali industry. The company declared force majeure late April 22 for VCM, muriatic acid, ethylene, dichloroethane, and anhydrous hydrogen chloride shipped from the Pajaritos facility.
The blast at the Petroquimica Mexicana de Vinilo SA de CV plant in the Pajaritos petrochemicals complex in Coatzacoalcos also seriously injured 88 people. Some 19 remained hospitalized on April 22, including 13 in critical condition.
In the joint statement, state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos and petrochemicals giant Mexichem SAB de CV said “it's in the greatest interest to discover what happened in the plant and a profound analysis will be carried out to determine the root cause of the explosion.” PMV is a joint venture between Pemex and Mexichem.
Pemex CEO José Antonio González Anaya said 12 bodies had been identified and eight have been handed over to their families. The company has met with the families of the eight workers who have been reported missing, he said.
A consultant, who asked not to be named, told Plastics News that the explosion may affect the wider chloralkali industry because Pajaritos is the main outlet for chlorine in Mexico.
A PMV spokesperson said PMV's annual production is 170,000 tons.
“We still do not know the full extent of the damage to the VCM/ethylene plant in the Clorados III area inside the Pajaritos petrochemical complex and its effects in this region” [of Veracruz],” the company said in an emailed statement.
“At this time PMV cannot predict with any precision when repairs will be completed or when the unit will be operational, or what its impact” [will be].
“PMV will provide additional information on this incident as it becomes available and shall continue working diligently to minimize the impact caused by this event.”
The statement was addressed to PMV's customers and signed by Fernando Atilio Torres Della Mea, PMV's chief financial officer.
The explosion occurred at 3:15 p.m. local time in the Clorados III area inside Pemex's Pajaritos complex. Clorados is translated as chlorinated products in English.
Mexichem is one of the world's largest manufacturers of PVC pipe. It has operations in 30 countries and employs 19,200 at 100 different sites.
Mexichem and Pemex said there was “no risk” to people living in the Coatzacoalcos area. Some 2,000 local people were initially evacuated, but were allowed to return to their homes. Luis Felipe Puente, the head of Mexico's emergency services, said the state of emergency at the complex has been lifted.
During the afternoon of April 21 Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico's president, visited the site along with several ministers of state.
Meanwhile, a Braskem Idesa SA official said the explosion had no impact on the massive new Ethylene XXI polyethylene plant, which is three miles away from the site.