FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German chemical giant BASF said on Wednesday it would gradually restart production again of key petrochemical sites at its Ludwigshafen headquarters after a deadly fire and explosion on Monday had forced it to close them.
BASF said the two Ludwigshafen steam crackers, which turn oil distillates into basic petrochemical building blocks for anything from plastics and coatings to solvents, would gradually resume output over the next few days because alternative supply lines will circumvent the disaster area.
Downstream sites which have been shut down because they rely on supply from the steam crackers will also resume operations as a result, BASF said in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday divers retrieved a body from the harbor at BASF’s flagship production site, the third victim of the blast, which also injured 25 people.
BASF added that in total, 24 sites including the steam crackers are currently off stream or working at reduced loads as a result of the accident, which was the worst in the German chemical industry in more than 20 years.
The Monday explosion occurred on a supply line connecting the harbor and a tank depot but the cause is yet unknown.
BASF said it declared force majeure for the purchase of naphtha, ethylene and propylene, freeing it from contractual liabilities towards external suppliers of the chemicals.
Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Victoria Bryan