Earthquake Rocks Japan's Chemical Industry | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: March 14, 2011

Earthquake Rocks Japan's Chemical Industry

Disaster: Many firms' plants are shut down indefinitely as nation struggles through aftermath
Department: Business
Keywords: Japan, Earthquake
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Mitsubishi Chemical's Kashima site, which went into automatic shutdown during the quake.
Credit: Mitsubishi Chemical
mcckashima
 
Mitsubishi Chemical's Kashima site, which went into automatic shutdown during the quake.
Credit: Mitsubishi Chemical
Natural gas storage tanks burn at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city, Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo March 11, 2011. The biggest earthquake to hit Japan since records began 140 years ago struck the northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-metre tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships, cars and farm buildings on fire.
Credit: YOMIURI/Reuters/Newscom
quake_img1
 
Natural gas storage tanks burn at the Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city, Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo March 11, 2011. The biggest earthquake to hit Japan since records began 140 years ago struck the northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-metre tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships, cars and farm buildings on fire.
Credit: YOMIURI/Reuters/Newscom

Much of Japan's chemical industry reports a near standstill in operations in the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck that country on March 11. Most firms say that their facilities and personnel appear to be unharmed, but power shortages are keeping many plants offline, and managers don't know when they can restart.

Few chemical plants in Japan are located in the coastal zone that was ravaged by the tsunami or in the danger zone for radioactive fallout from some of the country's crippled nuclear reactors. The few companies with facilities in those areas generally haven't disclosed the extent of any damage.

Many large Japanese chemical companies-- Mitsubishi Chemical, Shin-Etsu Chemical, Kyowa Hakko Kirin, Sumitomo Chemical, JSR, Kuraray, Mitsui Chemicals, and others—operate facilities in Chiba and Ibaraki, two prefectures that neighbor Tokyo to the northeast. Firms in those areas say the quake triggered automatic emergency shutdown of their plants. However, some companies report being able to resume operations.

A raging fire at the Cosmo Energy refinery in Chiba that began March 11 touched off an overnight fire at the neighboring Chisso polyethylene and polypropylene plant, Chisso reports. Chisso says that none of its workers were injured and that damage to the facility is relatively light.

Polysilicon producer Tokuyama has a subsidiary, Tohoku Shannon, located in Japan's Tohoku area, which was devastated by the tsunami. Tokuyama says it is assessing damage to the subsidiary and to its facilities elsewhere in Japan.

Chemical manufacturer Tosoh says its staff in the Tohoku area is safe, including the staff of a plant in the town of Ishinomaki, which was largely destroyed by the tsunami. This facility was flooded and Tosoh says the extent of the damage is unclear.

 
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