Oil and Gas

Over 5,250 tonnes of chemicals burned in Rouen, France, industrial fire

PARIS, Oct 1 (Reuters) - More than 5,250 tonnes of chemicals, oil and fuel additives have burned in a massive fire at U.S. specialty chemical firm Lubrizol in Rouen, France, last week, the local prefecture said in a statement on Tuesday.

Following days of protests in Rouen and calls in parliament by opposition politicians to release the list of products burned, the Seine-Maritime prefecture published a list of the chemicals that burned on Sept. 26 in one of the most major industrial accidents in France in recent years.

The prefecture said that more than 3,300 tonnes of “multi-purpose additives” have burned, and 711 tonnes of “viscosity booster”, as well as tens of tonnes of other chemical products such as dispersants, anti-freeze and anti-friction additives.

Under the European Union “Seveso Directive” - named after the 1976 chemical plant accident in Italy - high-risk chemical plants need to inform authorities about the products on site, but following a failed attack on a French chemical plant in 2015, authorities no longer release that information to the public.

Some 1,300 sites in France report their stocks under this directive.

Local authorities in Rouen, a city of more than 100,000 in the northwestern region of Normandy, said on Monday that no asbestos had been released during the fire.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said that the smell of burning fuel that still hangs over large parts of Rouen and surroundings is “annoying but not harmful”.

People have been told not to eat produce from their gardens and farmers are not allowed to sell milk, vegetables and other products harvested in the area. Some teachers have also refused to resume classes, citing health risks, and some local residents and businesses have initiated lawsuits to seek damages.

Headquartered in Wickliffe, Ohio, lubricant maker Lubrizol Corp was bought by billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc in 2011 for $9 billion. Lubrizol makes lubricants and petroleum additives for engines, especially large trucks, buses and boats. (Reporting by Sophie Louet and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sandra Maler)