London — Kurt Bock, CEO of German chemical giant BASF SE, said during a London press event Nov. 7 that an investigation is underway about the cause of the Oct. 17 fire and explosion at its Ludwigshafen, Germany plant which resulted in the death of four people.
The explosion followed a fire which began on a pipeline at the group's North Harbor facility last month. Three fire fighters who were tackling the initial blaze were killed in the subsequent explosion, along with a sailor who was working by the river.
Bock said an independent investigation into the incident was underway, but it appeared that contractors had been working on the wrong pipeline when the incident happened.
“This has been an emotionally tough and traumatic experience for everyone, both in Ludwigshafen and for BASF colleagues globally."
Highlighting the bravery of those in the emergency services, Bock said: "In situations like this fire fighters rush in to help just as everyone else is getting away.”
Bock stressed that safety was always the group's “number one priority,” and rejected local press reports in Germany that suggested BASF had not spent enough on maintaining the facilities at Ludwigshafen.
Around 20 plants and two steam crackers were put out of action in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, but only seven plants across the Ludwigshafen facility were now inactive, and the group would be "back on track in the not too distant future," he added.
Bock also expressed his disappointment that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union, describing the country as “the voice of reason” in Brussels, a line echoed by Richard Carter, the head of BASF in the U.K. and Ireland.
Carter said it was vital that BASF had tariff-free access to markets and free movement “for our people.”
“We also need continuity with regard to areas such as Reach, and we need a long term energy policy, something which seems to be dependent upon the government of the day.”
Carter said he was pleased the U.K. government had place an industrial strategy on the political landscape, and he believed ministers were “really listening” to the chemical industry.
“The sooner we can get directional clarity, the better for BASF. The more clarity we have, the more transparency we have moving forward,” he added.