LG Polymer plant uses raw material styrene to make its products, which is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.
The unfortunate incident of the gas leak at Visakhapatnam today claiming at least eight lives and making hundreds of people sick, took place at a plant owned by LG Polymers. This plant is a part of the plastic resin & synthetic fiber manufacturing industry and is owned by South Korean battery maker LG Chemical Ltd, which deals in development, manufacturing, and services in the field of polymers. The plant uses raw material styrene to make its products, which is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.
LG Chemical entered India by completely taking over Hindustan Polymers in July 1997 and renamed as LG Polymers India Private Limited (LGPI). Before this, the company was established in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers for manufacturing polystyrene. Later, in 1978, Hindustan Polymers merged with McDowell of UB Group. LGPI claims that it is one of the leading manufacturers of polystyrene and expandable polystyrene in India while it also makes engineering plastics compounds. In terms of sales, the parent company LG Chemical was the 10th largest chemical company in the world in 2017.
Today’s accident took place when the factory was being prepared to reopen today after the lockdown. The workers were preparing to restart the operation when the gas started to leaking in the early hours. LG Polymers has issued a statement stating that there were 1800 tonnes of styrene in the storage tank. The statement said that due to stagnation and changes in temperature styrene could have resulted in auto polymerization which could have caused vapourisation.
Meanwhile, today’s accident at the LG Polymers plant of Vizag has been deeply criticised as at least 3,000 people had to be evacuated to safe places and nearly 170 were admitted to various hospitals. The incident has once again raised questions on the improper maintenance of chemicals in the industry. In 1984, the Bhopal gas tragedy incident also took place in India, which is considered to be one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.