Friday 02 Jun 2023
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on October 31, 2022 - November 6, 2022

A major fire broke out at the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) in southern Johor last Thursday, the third time this has occurred at Malaysia’s largest petrochemical complex since 2019.

Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Corporation Sdn Bhd (PRPC), the developer of PIC, said the fire broke out at one of the interconnecting pipes and was quickly brought under control with no casualties and threat to the surrounding communities.

In March 2020, five people died in a fire that broke out at the Pengerang Refining and Petrochemical (PRefChem) refinery. The fire caused operations at the refinery to be stalled for almost two years.

Operations at the 300,000 barrel-per-day refinery, which is a joint venture between Petronas and Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, only resumed in May this year.

In 2019, a fire that caused an explosion in another PRefChem facility resulted in some of the plant’s operations being disrupted for more than a year.

The fire on Thursday was extinguished within 1½ hours. So far, neither Petronas nor Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd has disclosed the impact of the fire on operations at PIC.

PIC, which covers more than 6,300 acres, is the showcase of Petronas’ downstream activities. The national oil company has invested more than US$27 billion in the mega project, which is the biggest petrochemical complex in the region.

PIC is the catalyst for spearheading further downstream activities in the oil and gas industry. It cannot afford to have incidents such as a major fire, not to mention having it happen more than once.

Besides the potential financial repercussions, the fires do not speak well of the safety standards at the complex, whose commencement was delayed for years.

The oil and gas industry, including the downstream business, is inherently hazardous. Safety is the top priority, ranking above profitability.

It is hoped that the relevant parties will carry out a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire and ensure that the necessary safety measures are in place to prevent any reoccurrence.

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