The Urethane Blog

Chinese Warehouse Explosion

Death toll rising from massive chemical explosions in Tianjin



Massive explosions of chemicals rocked the Chinese port city of Tianjin around midnight on Aug. 12, killing dozens.

The blasts have killed 50 and injured more than 700 as of 6 p.m. local time Aug. 13, the Tianjin government said on its Weibo microblog. More than 1,000 firefighters joined rescue operations, and 12 of those firefighters lost their lives.

Photos and videos from government sources and social media show the explosions shot fireballs and a mushroom cloud into the sky and sent shockwaves that destroyed buildings miles from the site. The U.S. Geological Survey registered the blasts as seismic events.

The blasts originated from a hazardous chemicals warehouse operated by Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics in the Binhai New District. The exact cause is still under investigation.

Tianjin Tanggu Environmental Monitoring Station told media that sodium cyanide (NaCN), toluene diisocyanate (TDI) — a feedstock for polyurethanes — and calcium carbide (CaC2) are among the toxic chemicals that may have been in the shipping containers in the warehouse.

The government and the public voiced concerns on social media with the chemical pollutants and their long term impact on the environment and public health.

As for immediate impact on the plastics industry, an analyst from SCI International predicts supply disruptions of propylene, TDI and propylene oxide — a building block for polyurethane, as warehouses in the port currently ceased handling of hazardous chemicals, according to an report. The analyst said propylene will be affected the most, and TDI will see limited impact due to low inventory of TDI in the port.

The Tianjin port is the 10th largest port in the world.