Wacker Chemie AG has started an investigation into a Sept. 7 explosion at its production site in Charleston, Tenn., to discover the root cause of the incident.
The Munich-based specialty chemicals company said Sept. 20 that the explosion was caused by a technical defect prompting a leak of hydrogen which subsequently caught fire. According to Wacker, the explosion was caused when a damaged pipe leaked chlorosilane, a chemical that creates hydrogen chloride as it comes into contact with moisture in the air.
The explosion, said Wacker, severely damaged “a small, but important facility” of the production plant.
Wacker has hired an independent expert team to determine the root cause of the incident and is cooperating with governmental authorities to ensure a safe resumption of operations.
The chemicals company said financial damage of the incident was expected to be “only minor” due to insurance coverage for damages and loss of production.
During the incident, two site employees were injured and seen at the local hospital and were released the same day.
The facility, which is now shut down, produces polycrystalline silicon for the solar industry.
“While we are working diligently towards resuming production, the safety of our employees and the community is our top priority,” said Tobias Brandis, global president Wacker Polysilicon.
“Therefore, production will not start until a thorough inspection is completed and it is certain that the facility is safe.”
According to Brandis, restarting could take several months.
“During the production downtime, we will use personnel to support repair efforts and other site activities as needed. We also will use this downtime to provide our employees with advanced training courses,” he concluded.