October 1, 2019
Volume 3 Issue 3
Lubrizol Plant Closed Following Fire
Lubrizol Corp. said Monday that it does not yet have a timetable for the reopening of its lubricant additive factory in Rouen, France, following a fire there Sept. 26.
The company also said that video surveillance and eyewitnesses' accounts indicate the blaze was first observed outside the site, “suggesting the fire originated outside of Lubrizol and unfortunately spread to our facility.”
Lubrizol is one of the globe’s four main producers of lubricant additive packages, and the Rouen facility, coupled with its nearby Le Havre plant, is the company’s primary production facility in Europe.
Industry insiders said there was no sign yet of the incident causing headaches in the market. David Wright, director general of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association, said members aren’t reporting a shortage of additives because of the blaze.
“I would expect Lubrizol to enact their business continuity plans and diversify products away from Rouen to other plants in France, Spain or even the U.K. to accommodate the outage,” he told Lube Report, explaining the company also has operations in Mourenx, France, a presence in Derby, Huddersfield and Barnsley in the United Kingdom and a facility in Barcelona.
The company, which is based in Wickliffe, Ohio, United States, confirmed Wright’s assessment, saying some employees will work out of the Le Havre site, where manufacturing and shipping continues.
Initial reports stated the fire impacted the drumming warehouse and an administrative building at the northern France facility just before 3 a.m. local time, Sept. 26.
“If the extent of the damages was limited to the drumming plant, it should not have any major impact to either production of or the sale of additive products,” said an official at a base oil supplier.
However, the official, who asked to remain anonymous so as to speak freely, said the Rouen plant purchases large amounts of base oil – hundreds of thousands of metric tons annually – and that any disruption in the plant’s operation could have a “serious impact” on the base oil business.
Authorities closed local schools on Sept. 26 and advised Rouen residents to stay indoors. By the following day the restrictions were lifted. Lubrizol said environmental testing found no “acute toxicity from the fire’s smoke.”
The facility, located along the River Seine, has a history of environmental incidents, according to local media outlets.
In 2013, the site leaked mercaptans from decaying zinc dialkyldithoisphospate, also known as ZDDP. The mercaptan smell of cabbage or spoiled eggs blew as far as Paris, across the English Channel and into southern England. The plant was reopened after a month.
In 2015, 2,000 liters of mineral oil leaked into the city’s sewer system.