Root cause investigation at Wacker’s Charleston Plant underway

An explosion caused by a hydrogen leak at Wacker’s US production site in Charleston, Tennessee, has led to a root cause investigation

The explosion on 7 September was caused by a technical defect prompting a leak of hydrogen, which subsequently caught fire, thereby severely damaging a small, but important facility of the polysilicon production plant.

As a result, damaged piping leaked chlorosilane, a chemical that creates hydrogen chloride as it comes into contact with moisture in the air. Assisted by external emergency responders, the site’s fire fighters immediately contained the chemical with water.

During the incident, two site employees were taken to the local hospital and released the same day. Thanks to the immediate action of all response teams involved, there was no risk to the community.

Wacker has engaged an independent expert team to determine the root cause of the incident and is cooperating with governmental authorities to ensure a safe resumption of operations.

Financial effects on Wacker stemming from this incident are expected to be only minor due to insurance coverage for damages and loss of production.

Tobias Brandis, Global President at Wacker Polysilicon, said: “While we are working diligently towards resuming production, the safety of our employees and the community is our top priority. Therefore, production will not start until a thorough inspection is completed and it is certain that the facility is safe.

“From today’s perspective, re- starting will take several months. During the production downtime, we will use personnel to support repair efforts and other site activities as needed. We also will use this downtime to provide our employees with advanced training courses.”

Wacker is in close contact with its customers and will keep them informed on polysilicon availability.

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Wacker Chemical Corporation (more information, website)