Lubrizol Partially Restarts Rouen Plant

A regional governing body in France authorized Lubrizol last week to resume some operations at its Rouen lubricant additive plant, which has been sidelined since a fire in late September.

Under the decree, Lubrizol may restart blending and solubilizing multifunctional additive packages and viscosity modifiers. The decree did not authorize resumption of manufacturing operations that use chemical reactors nor reopening of a large storage facility for finished products, according to Dec. 13 and Dec. 10 announcements by the Prefect of Seine-Maritime.

The amount of finished products that may be stored at the site has been reduced by 93 percent, from 8,600 metric tons to 561 tons, and raw material storage has also been reduced - by 27 to 89 percent, depending on the material.

A company spokesperson said Lubrizol is pleased with the partial restart, adding that 90 percent of the facility was not affected by the Sept. 26 blaze.

We will resume blending in the days ahead of a select group of products, as we work toward restoring customer supply. Lubrizol has developed a phased approach for production, the spokesperson said Friday afternoon.

She continued that the company is working closely with customers to establish and provide timelines regarding the status of orders as the blending units resume. Following the event, Lubrizol shifted some operations from Rouen to another facility in nearby Le Havre, France, while also leaning on other Lubrizol sites to fill supply gaps. The impacts varied, but in all cases, we worked to minimize impact and stayed in close communication with any customers who were impacted, she said.

The Department Council for the Environment and Health and Technology Risks (CODERST) said regardless of the significant reduction in storage, this decree takes into account feedback it received after the fire. Under the decree, Lubrizol must:

  • take additional fire safety precautions that go beyond regulations and which have been validated by the regional governments fire service. All storage facilities must now be equipped with a water retention basin of sufficient capacity, fire detection and pre-positioned extinguishing systems.
  • implement a safety action plan that addresses findings of a safety audit.Regional inspectors will visit the site before operations resume.

The department also proposed new measures to reinforce trust between the company and surrounding residents:

  • Lubrizol and authorities will update CODERST about implementation of these measures during each CODERST meeting;
  • a monitoring system will be installed to supplement monitoring by government officials;
  • a site monitoring commission of elected officials, residents, employees, operators and state services will be convened in January on the Lubrizol site.

Politicians and residents in the region opposed the reopening. Charlotte Goujon, mayor of nearby Petit-Quevilly, considered the reopening "premature, according to French news outlets. We still have questions about the security of the site.

Lubrizols spokesperson said the company held a number of community meetings since the fire and will continue to do. In the past week, Lubrizol officials hosted a meeting with an extended community advisory panel, and they intend to gather this group throughout 2020. Additionally, the company hosted area mayors for a walk-through of all of the safety plans.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the regional government released its latest round of tap water monitoring results. Tap water is safe to drink in Normandy: It can be consumed without risk to health, including in the areas of the Seine-Maritime that have been directly affected by the smoke plume, the report concluded.

The National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety reported that testing between Sept. 26 and Nov. 27 on 1,840 water samples confirmed an absence of contaminants or found them present in concentrations much lower than permitted limits.

Photo courtesy of Lubrizol