December, 1997

This is a repeating event

199725DecAll DayBintulu Explosion 1997Shell Bintulu (MY)Industry:Gas ProcessingCountry:MalaysiaLanguage:ENLoC:Confined explosion Origin: Marsh Incident:EXPLOSIONHazards:FlammableImpact:HUMAN (On Site Injuries)Effects:< 100 InjuriesMaterial:Methane


An explosion and fire occurred at a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Bintulu, Sarawak. The fire was brought under control on the next day. The plant was one of only two commercially successful GTL plants in the world at the time, with a capacity to produce 12,500 bbl-per-day of middle distillates and waxes from natural gas feedstocks. The explosion occurred in the air separation unit (ASU) which supplied oxygen for the production of synthesis gas feedstock. The investigation into the incident pointed to an initial combustion event in the ASU as the most probable cause. This combustion event is thought to have initiated explosive burning of the aluminium heat exchanger elements in the presence of liquid oxygen, such that the elements ruptured explosively. Twelve people were injured, none seriously, and the plant was shut down for several months for repairs.

[ Property Damage $275 Million. Estimated Current Value $510 Million ]

Image credit: Shell