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Fire, explosion reported at Sasol's Lake Charles petrochemical plant

Fire resulting from a reported explosion at the Sasol Ltd. petrochemical plant near Lake Charles, La., on Jan. 13 was extinguished by plant personnel, the company said.

The extent of the damage to the facility, the Lake Charles West plant, was not immediately clear.

A Sasol spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about the damage to the estimated $12.6 billion to $12.9 billion facility or the effect on the plant's operations. But the spokesperson, Kim Cusimano, said in an email that the plant's emergency response team was able to extinguish the fire and that no injuries were reported.

Residents had reported a loud boom after 1 p.m. CT, according to local media reports.

The Lake Charles West plant in Westlake, La., is part of the Lake Charles Chemicals project, which consists of an ethane cracker with a capacity of about 1.5 million tons per year and six downstream chemical units, according to Sasol's website. The ethane cracker reached "beneficial operation," or passed a 72-hour production test run, in late August 2019.

But the plant failed to exceed 60% of its nameplate capacity because of an underperforming acetylene removal system that was resolved by mid-December 2019, according to a Dec. 17, 2019, news release from Sasol. After the outage, the ethylene production rates increased to 85% to 90% of nameplate capacity, the company said.

At the time, the company said it expected to bring a low-density polyethylene unit to beneficial operation later in December 2019, and construction on three remaining downstream units remained on cost and on schedule.