Petr Dubinsky

Authorities Investigating Cause Of Agrofert Biofuel Plant Explosion

The explosion in Preol in Lovosice is being investigated by police officers as a crime of general negligence. They are also checking on the spot whether security regulations have not been violated. The explosion in the production of biofuels occurred late Monday evening, firefighters managed to locate the fire on Tuesday at 11:15, the causes and the amount of damage are not yet known.

The cause of the explosion was probably a fault in the rapeseed separator. “Highly flammable hexane, used in pressing rapeseed, exploded, the line was shut down at the time of the accident,” added Milan Rudolf, a spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Service of the Ústí nad Labem Region. According to him, the first to be on fire were Lovochemie. “They got information that there was a small burn in the building, they went to investigate. There was a burn on the cable line, on the wiring. They liquidated it and on the return there was an unexpected explosion of hexane. Nobody expected that because the line was shut down, it was on It will be the subject of an investigation into how all this could have happened, “Rudolf added.

Preol belongs to the Agrofert group. “The incident took place at a time when there was a shutdown and our people say they followed all the rules and regulations, so it’s a question and a mystery for us. Preol’s management predicts that the explosion may have been due to a technical failure. The exact cause will determine the police investigation in the coming days, “group spokesman Karel Hanzelka told ČTK. According to him, it is soon yet to estimate the damage. “There was no threat to the environment or the health of the population, but they have not let us in yet, the quarrying work continues,” he added. According to him, additional information about the event will probably not be available until Friday, July 9.

Rescuers treated four people on the spot. “Three were injured, one suffered very serious injuries and was transported by helicopter to the Prague burn center,” said Prokop Voleník, a spokesman for the regional rescue service. The other two men were transported to hospitals in Ústí nad Labem and Litoměřice with moderate injuries. According to Voleník, the fourth man was not injured, but he was taken to the hospital with cardiovascular problems. According to Hanzelka, all injuries are out of danger of life.

According to the regional police spokeswoman Alena Bartošová, the police received the announcement of the explosion on Monday at 22:47. Due to the intervention, the police had to close the I / 15 road at night. “But it is passable again,” the spokeswoman said.

Preol is a processor of rapeseed oil and the largest producer of biofuels in the Czech Republic and is also engaged in the production of rapeseed oil for use in the food industry. It belongs to the Agrofert group from the trust funds of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (YES).

According to firefighters, the explosion occurred in a hall measuring 35 by 20 by 25 meters. At night, 12 units intervened on the spot, in the morning, according to Rudolf, there were only seven. 

Five units added water to the building’s stable fire extinguishing system, while the other two intervened directly. Firefighters originally cooled the building from the outside, but then stopped the work on the recommendation of a technologist who feared for the statics of the building. “But the structural engineer evaluated that the structures are stable, it’s well built, the operation is modern, so the use of water in large quantities is not a problem,” he said.

After cooling the building from 200 to 50 degrees Celsius, according to Rudolf, there was no longer a risk of hexane ignition and firefighters could survey the interior and determine the progress of firefighting work. “After partial disassembly of the perimeter walls of the hall and dismantling of the technological passage to the extractor, water with a wetting agent was transported to the extractor in order to reduce the temperature to an acceptable limit,” the spokesman described the intervention. But firefighters measured the concentration of hexane all the time.

According to a spokesman for the fire brigade, no dangerous substances escaped into the air. The rapeseed that is processed on the line is not dangerous for the environment and the hexane burns completely. Firefighters built submerged walls on the nearby Elbe.

“Immediately after the arrival of the units to the site and the choice of firefighting equipment, we proceeded to clog the sewer network in the area with gel cushions and installed submersibles at the outlets so that in case of any leakage of extinguishing agents we can collect the liquid directly at the chemical plant. in the stream of the Elbe it was not carried away towards Ústí nad Labem, “Rudolf added.

The governor of Ústí nad Labem, Jan Schiller (YES), said that the firefighters had already got the fire under control, so according to him it is not necessary to convene a regional crisis staff. “We are connected with the town of Lovosice, but they do not need anything, there is no danger there,” said the governor. According to the mayor of Lovosice Milan Diana (YES), the city is quiet. No dangerous substances have escaped into the air and the inhabitants of the city are not endangered.