Fire at Arkema Peroxide, no one injured

Cuddalore 28 June 2006: A fire broke out in the storage area of Arkema Peroxide at about 7:35 am. According to the SACEM reports the fire lasted for about 5 minutes and the flames were seen shooting up to a height of 100 feet. There was a cloud of black smoke that was released with the fire. The alarm from the unit alerted the monitors and the villagers. No one was injured by this incident, according to reports at hand. SACEM informed the Assistant Environmental Engineer (AEE) of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) immediately, following which he visited the factory for further investigation.

According to the AEE, the fire broke out in a 200 litre barrel of Hydrogen Peroxide that was stored in an open storage space. The fire lasted for about 8 to 10 minutes, according to his report, and was brought under control by the fire extinguishers inside the unit. The cause of the fire is still unknown. The AEE also informed the vice president of the company who arrived at the site for inspection. SACEM has filed a complaint with the Factories Inspectorate asking for investigation in the matter.

Villagers from Semmankuppam had raised concerns regarding the close proximity of factories with serious explosive hazards. Semmankuppam Panchayat already has Arkema Peroxide (which stores and manufactures highly volatile and explosive chemicals) and Pandyan Chemicals which manufactures rocket fuel. In addition to this, Chemplast is proposing to set up a PVC factory that will store large quantities of explosive Vinyl Chloride Monomer. A runaway disaster in any one of the above factories can have a calamitous domino effect that could wipe out entire villages.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. It has strong oxidizing properties and is therefore a powerful bleaching agent that has found use as a disinfectant, as an oxidizer, and in rocketry (particularly in high concentrations as high-test peroxide (HTP) as a monopropellant), and in bipropellant systems.

Hydrogen peroxide vapour can detonate above 70C, so it is critical to keep solutions and vapour cool. Distillation of hydrogen peroxide at normal pressures is highly dangerous. Hydrogen peroxide vapours can form sensitive contact explosives with hydrocarbons such as greases. Hazardous reactions ranging from ignition to explosion have been reported with alcohols, ketones, carboxylic acids (particularly acetic acid), amines and phosphorus.

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