1 dead, 1 injured after incident at ExxonMobil refinery

Mustafa Shafawi Channel NewsAsia 29 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE: One worker died and another seriously injured in an incident at Singapore Refinery in Jurong on Monday night.

ExxonMobil in a statement said that the workers were found unconscious at about 7.30pm and were sent to the hospital immediately.

One of them, 34-year-old Indian worker Dakshinamoorthy Vellaisamy who was a specialist technician, succumbed to his injuries and died at about 9pm.

His family has been informed.

The other is in critical condition in hospital.

Both were working for Dialog Systems Pte Ltd, and were carrying out maintenance works in an enclosed space filled with nitrogen, when they were discovered to be unconscious.

Singapore Refinery Manager Darrin Talley said: "We are taking a serious view of this incident. A full investigation is
underway, to determine the cause of the incident."

The company said it is cooperating with the authorities to investigate the cause of the incident.

Meanwhile, as a result of this incident, all work relating to the turnaround at the Jurong Refinery has been suspended.

ExxonMobil said further information will be released as soon as it becomes available.

- CNA/fa/cc

Worker's death at ExxonMobil plant halts work
Another worker in critical condition; duo were working in nitrogen-filled space
Ronnie Lim Business Times 30 Mar 11;

AN incident involving a fatality has stopped all maintenance work at ExxonMobil's 309,000 barrel per day (bpd) Jurong refinery, which had been undergoing scheduled shutdown.

On Monday night, the incident that apparently did not involve an explosion resulted in the death of a contracted worker and has left a second in critical condition.

'Both are contractors and had been carrying out maintenance works in an enclosed space filled with nitrogen, when they were discovered to be unconscious,' the company said.

'We are cooperating with the authorities to investigate the cause of the incident. Meanwhile . . . all work relating to the turnaround at the Jurong refinery has been suspended.'

'The family of the deceased worker, a 34-year-old Indian national, has been notified. We are deeply saddened by their loss and we offer our condolences to his family and loved ones,' the company added.

An ExxonMobil spokeswoman told BT that it was too early to tell when it expects to resume the scheduled nine-week maintenance work there. The turnaround at the refinery started in early-March and was expected to be completed around end-April. As it was a scheduled turnaround, supplies to customers have not been affected.

ExxonMobil, the largest refiner here with a total capacity of 605,000 bpd, also operates a second 296,000 bpd refinery on Pulau Ayer Chawan, and that is running as per normal.

Just over a week ago, the spokeswoman told BT that even as the Jurong refinery was undergoing the turnaround, 'the rest of ExxonMobil's Singapore refinery is making all efforts to maximise production at the Pulau Ayer Chawan site to minimise the impact of the Japan situation to our customers in the region'.

'In addition, EM is leveraging on its regional supply network, which includes refineries and supply systems in Japan and Singapore, to provide Japan with its necessary fuel supplies,' she added.

The ExxonMobil incident is the second which has hit the Singapore oil industry this month.

Shell Singapore had earlier declared force majeure on some of its contracted chemical supplies to customers as a result of 'operational problems' at its upstream ethylene cracker some 11 days ago. The problem occurred when Shell earlier restarted the cracker on the weekend of March 12-13 following a scheduled maintenance shutdown.

The cracker produces 800,000 tonnes per annum of ethylene, 450,000 tpa of propylene and 230,000 tpa of benzene and there has been no official word so far on when the cracker will resume operations, if it hasn't already done so.

One dies, another injured in refinery incident
Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 30 Mar 11;

ONE foreign worker died and another was injured while carrying out maintenance operations at an ExxonMobil oil refinery in Jurong on Monday.

Indian nationals Dakshinamoorthy Vellaisamy, 34, and Sornakalai Ravichandran, 35, were found unconscious inside an enclosed space filled with nitrogen at the ExxonMobil-owned Singapore Refinery. They were cleaning a part of a lube plant.

The Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) occupational safety and health division has instructed ExxonMobil to stop all cleaning operations at the site till safety can be ascertained.

The two specialist technicians were taken to the National University Hospital (NUH), where Mr Vellaisamy died of his injuries later that same evening. He had been supporting his wife and their two young children in India.

Mr Ravichandran, who regained consciousness at about noon yesterday, is under intensive care. His condition is said to be stable.

The father of two young children told The Straits Times that the incident was over in just a few minutes.

Mr Ravichandran said he and his colleague wore oxygen masks into what he described as a catalyst tower, when he realised, belatedly, that the oxygen level had not been set.

He then alerted his colleague, who pressed a button on his walkie-talkie to alert other colleagues. 'After that, I don't remember anything because I fainted,' he said.

Associate Professor Malcolm Mahadevan, head of the emergency medicine department at NUH, said an imbalance between oxygen and nitrogen levels in the air would pose a threat to survival.

'When the brain is deprived of oxygen, the person becomes unconscious, and then vital organs like the heart and kidney will start to get affected,' he said, adding that no two people are affected the same way.

Both men had been working for about five years with Dialog Systems, which was contracted for maintenance works. The works started on March 9, and were scheduled to continue for nine weeks.

A spokesman for the company, which provides specialised technical and consultancy services for upstream oil and gas production, said it is making arrangements to send Mr Vellaisamy's body to India.

In a statement, ExxonMobil said other unrelated maintenance works will continue as usual.

The incident comes just after MOM released figures in January showing that workplace fatalities hit an all-time low last year. There have already been at least three this year, including the latest one.

Singapore Refinery manager Darrin Talley said: 'We are greatly saddened by this tragic event and express our deepest sympathy to the families of those affected in this incident.'

MOM is currently investigating the cause of the incident, and the police are also investigating what they have classified as an unnatural death.