Urethane Blog

Hydrogen Peroxide Accident Impacts HPPO Production in China

May 8, 2023

Impact of Explosion at Luxi Chemical’s Hydrogen Peroxide Plant

PUdaily | Updated: May 6, 2023

On May 1 at 12:20 pm, an explosion occurred at the hydrogen peroxide production area of Luxi Chemical, a subsidiary of Sinochem Holdings. The preliminary investigation found that when recovering the fluid, a large amount of 70% hydrogen peroxide had leaked into the kettle of the hydrogen peroxide device. The impurities in the kettle caused the hydrogen peroxide to decompose, causing overpressure explosions in the kettle that triggered explosions in the adjacent octanol storage tanks and pipeline leaks. Nine workers died, one was injured, and one is still missing.

The trigger for this accident was hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly used in medicine, sterilization, oxygen preparation, oxidants, bleaching agents, and dechlorinators. As a strong oxidiser, it is unstable and prone to decomposition. During decomposition, a large amount of heat is released. If metals, salts, and impurities are mixed in, the decomposition process may be intensified, leading to an explosion.

The HPPO process, which uses hydrogen peroxide as a raw material to directly oxidize propylene into propylene oxide (PO), is a new green technology, and the process patents are mainly held by companies such as Degussa, Uhde, Dow Chemical, and BASF. In China, Sinopec, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and East China University of Science and Technology also have independent technologies. The process is relatively simple and does not produce too many byproducts, nor does it cause pollution to the surrounding environment. The produced propylene oxide is the only product allowed for export in China at present.

In the HPPO process, it’s key to ensure the quality of hydrogen peroxide. The most direct impact of the explosion at the hydrogen peroxide production area of Luxi Chemical is twofold:

First, the shutdown and transformation, which means that all devices that do not meet safety and environmental standards are immediately shut down, rectified, and closed within a certain time limit. The company’s current shutdown and associated devices involve hydrogen peroxide, caprolactam/nylon 6, and polyol units, and the resumption time is not decided yet.

Second, the safety production supervision has been strengthened, and the entry threshold for HPPO process to produce propylene oxide has been raised. In China, the currently operating HPPO facilities include those at Jilin Shenhua and Sinopec Changling, which were put into operation in 2014, Taixing Yida Chemical and Qixiang Tengda, which were put into operation in 2022, and Jincheng Petrochemical and Jiahong New Materials, which were put into operation in 2023. China’s total annual capacity of propylene oxide is presently1.55 million tonnes, and the future new and planned projects will add an annual capacity of 4.2 million tonnes, according to PUdaily.

Moreover, the hydrogen peroxide explosion incident has to some extent delayed the restart of some HPPO process facilities, and the reduction in supply of propylene oxide is one of the reasons for the recent price increase. On May 5, the prevailing offers of propylene oxide in China have risen to CNY 10,000-10,100/tonne from CNY 9,600-9,700/tonne before the May Day holiday, and the uptrend will continue in the short term.

Future impacts include accelerating the relocation and transformation of hazardous chemical production companies in urban areas, increasing efforts to rectify, reduce, shift, and transform chemical companies outside of industrial parks.


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