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May 28, 2017

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Economics minister urges Kaohsiung gov't to offer new routes for petrochemical pipelines

TAIPEI--Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) urged the Kaohsiung city government Wednesday to offer new routes on which petrochemical companies can install their gas pipelines.

The minister was asked to comment on Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu's (陳菊) decision the previous day to ban the use of the pipelines buried underground through the city's Cienjhen District after the July 31 explosions that ripped through the district's roads.

Three companies, including LCY Chemical Corp. (李長榮化學), CPC Corp. Taiwan (中國石油), and China Petrochemical Development Corp. (中石化), each of which use pipelines to transfer propylene from a gas terminal to their factories in Dashe petrochemical zone (大社石化區), will be affected by the decision.

The leaking inflammable gas suspected to be from an LCY Chemical pipe has been pinpointed as the cause of the July 31 explosions in which 30 people were killed and more than 300 injured.

Without the pipelines, the three companies might have to resort to using road-based tankers to ferry propylene to their factories which, the minister said, will be more dangerous than transferring the materials through pipelines.

A section of the LCY Chemical pipeline that crossed an underground storm drain and had a hole supposedly caused by water corrosion was blamed for the leaking propylene, according to the results of a preliminary investigation.

The minister said he did not understand why the pipeline, which was treated to resist corrosion under the earth but not in the air, was hung over the top of a storm drain, exposed to the air.

Chang said Kaohsiung is the only place in Taiwan that has petrochemical gas pipelines beneath downtown roads. Other industrial parks in Taiwan have underground pipelines, but only within their own complexes.

The minister said local governments should think carefully before allowing petrochemical pipelines to be buried under roads within their jurisdictions.

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