Over 21 injured in BPCL Mumbai refinery blaze; firm says fire under control

Fire broke out at the Bharat Petroleum refinery after an explosion, in Chembur, Mumbai. Photo: PTI
A unit of Bharat Petroleum Corporation’s (BPCL’s) Mumbai refinery caught fire on Wednesday following a blast, injuring at least 21 people, company officials said. 

“There was a fire incident in the hydrocracker unit of BPCL Mumbai refinery at Mahul at 1445 hours today (on Wednesday). By 1530 hours, the fire was brought under control. During the incident, some people suffered minor injuries and were sent to a local hospital at Chembur for further treatment. At this moment, the fire is under control,” BPCL said in a late evening press statement. 

The fire broke out in the compressor shed of the hydrocracker plant. “The hydrocracker unit has been safely shut down, while the other units are normal. No product shortage is envisaged on account of the fire,” BPCL said in its statement.

An official from BPCL told this newspaper, around 21 people were admitted to the hospital for minor injuries, while the rest needed first aid treatment.

The Mumbai refinery, located in Mumbai’s Mahul-Chembur area, is BPCL’s oldest and second-largest refinery with an installed capacity of 12 million tonnes per annum. The refinery was set up in 1955. Residents from the area reported hearing a loud explosion. 

BPCL’s other refineries include its Kochi refinery and two others in Bina, Madhya Pradesh and Numaligarh in Assam, as joint ventures (JVs). In 2017-18, the Mumbai refinery processed close to 14.1 million tonnes  (mt) of crude, of the total 37.7 mt that BPCL processed altogether in the same year. Analysts add based on the preliminary information, given the fire broke out at the hydro cracker plant, overall product supply may not be affected and disruption would be limited to particular products.

One of the major refinery fire incidents reported in the past was in 2016. In November 2016, two workers were killed and six critically injured after fire broke out at the refinery complex of Reliance Industries in Gujarat.

In the past few weeks, two other minor fire accidents have been reported at refineries. An August 6, a Reuters report stated BPCL would shut its 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) JV Bina refinery from mid-August for 45 days, a month ahead of the previous plan after a minor fire at the delayed coker. In a separate July 27 report, Reuters said Indian Oil Corp has shut a 40,000-bpd crude unit at its 150,000-bpd Haldia refinery on the east coast after a minor fire.