A furnace at the Crude Distillation Unit (CDU) of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) exploded yesterday, forcing the management of the refinery to shut down the CDU.
Officials were prompted to carry out an emergency shutdown of the facility to avert an outbreak of fire after the furnace had exploded as a result of excessive pressure, coupled with heat, causing the structure to give way to release its content.
The incident occurred about 10 a.m. yesterday while crude oil was being processed into finished petroleum products.
According to Daily Graphic sources at TOR, the furnace went off by itself while production was underway and took the vigilance of safety officers at TOR to avert a potential fire outbreak.
The explosion, the source said, occurred in the process of restarting the plant, thus necessitating the emergency shutdown and suspension of production to allow for investigations into the incident.
There were no casualties.
The new furnace was commissioned on December 2, 2016 as part of an expansion project carried out by TOR to increase its processing capacity. The replacement of the facility at the cost of five million euros began in 2013.
Prior to the commissioning of the new furnace, TOR’s production had reduced from 45,000 barrels of crude oil per day to 28,000 barrels because one of the furnaces at the CDU had broken down fours years earlier.
According to a source at TOR, technical assessment was being done to establish whether or not there had been any damage to the machinery as a result of the incident.
The source hinted that the CDU would be made to run on one furnace, instead of two, after the technical evaluation had been done on the affected plant.
Asked whether the incident would affect the supply of petroleum products on the market, it suggested that the refinery had enough refined products in stock and so the incident would not affect supply to its clients.
Attempts by the Daily Graphic to reach the management of the refinery were unsuccessful, as officials were said to be at a meeting with the new Managing Director, Mr Isaac Osei, who assumed duty at the refinery last Monday.
However, some school of thought already hold the verdict that the damage was beyond repairs and that the furnace would require a total replacement.
Mr Osei, a former Member of Parliament (MP) for Subin in Kumasi, took over from Mr Kwame Awuah Darko, who resigned his position on January 4, 2017.
After holding meetings with both the senior and the junior staff unions yesterday, Mr Osei had to cancel a planned staff durbar because of the explosion.
The durbar was intended to provide the platform to be introduced to the workers.
Mr Osei had previously served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and was also one time Ghana High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.