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Yeosu blackout may cost billions

‘Blackouts during winter are common, but a 20 minute outage is unprecedented.’

Jan 19,2011
Authorities fear that Monday’s power outage at a petrochemical industrial complex in Yeosu, South Jeolla, could result in losses of tens of billions of won.

Twenty of Yeosu Industrial Complex’s 268 companies were left without power for 20 minutes after a power generator operated by Korea Power Electricity Corp. tripped at 4:10 p.m.

The cause of the blackout has not been determined, but Kepco assumes the outage was caused by the restoration of a 154,000 volt power line to the complex’s Yongseong substation.

Kepco ruled out a connection between record electricity usage across the country and the Yeosu Industrial Complex power failure.

“It will take time to figure out why low-voltage occurred, but I’m certain that it’s not because there was a sudden increase in electricity usage due to cold weather,” said an official at Kepco. GS Caltex, along with Cheil Industries, LG Chem, LG MMA, Namhae Chem and Samnam Petrochemical confirmed they were forced to halt operations at their facilities.

GS Caltex, the complex’s largest tenant, had not restarted production at its plant by yesterday afternoon. Full restoration of production at the 20 affected facilities is expected to take up to two days.

“Blackouts during winter are common, but a 20 minute outage is unprecedented,” an official from GS Caltex said. “If there’s a power outage, substances in our production process could solidify, causing huge losses.”

GS Caltex operates three paraxylene units in Yeosu with a combined capacity of 1.35 million tons a year. All were shut down because of the blackout.

Petrochemical industries handle basic raw materials from crude oil to naphtha. As the process goes through complicated physicochemical reactions, a power outage in the middle of the production process can be dangerous.

Chemicals in the middle of the processing process tend to solidify inside pipelines, which must be extracted and reprocessed, costing a significant amount of time and money.

“Power outages during winter are frequent, so most factories have measures prepared. But depending on the size of the factory, one blackout can cause damage amounting from hundreds of millions of won to as much as tens of billions of won,” said an official from LG Chem. “The Yeosu Industrial Complex is filled with petrochemical plants. A great amount of time is needed to restore operations once there’s a halt in production,” said an official from the Yeosu Industrial Complex.

The complex experienced three blackouts in 2006 and two more in 2008, causing a halt in facility operations.


By Yoo Ji-ho [ebusiness@joongang.co.kr]



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