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Explosion at Sasol's La. petrochemical plant damaged polyethylene unit

Sasol Ltd. said an explosion and fire reported Jan. 13 at its petrochemical plant near Lake Charles, La., damaged a low-density polyethylene unit that was in the final stages of commissioning and startup.

Sasol said in a Jan. 14 news release that the unit has been shut down and that the company is investigating the cause of the explosion at the polyethylene unit, the extent of the damage, and the impact on the startup schedule.

The explosion happened at about 1:15 p.m. CT Jan. 13 at the Lake Charles West plant in Westlake, La. The plant is part of the estimated $12.6 billion to $12.9 billion 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.

Sasol said all of the other units at the Lake Charles Chemicals Project were unaffected by the explosion and operating to plan, including the ethane cracker, which Sasol said was operating at its nameplate capacity.

The plant's emergency response team extinguished the fire and no injuries were reported, Sasol spokesperson Kim Cusimano said Jan. 13.

Construction on three remaining downstream units at the facility remains on cost and on schedule, the company said.