Eastman: Coal gas plant is restarting

Hank Hayes • Dec 27, 2017 at 5:00 PM

KINGSPORT – Eastman Chemical Co. announced Wednesday the “mechanical completion” of its coal gasification plant that is currently in the process of restarting.

The facility exploded on Oct. 4, although Eastman initially referred to the incident as a “process upset.”

No lives were lost on that day, although on the same day 57 years ago an explosion happened that did take lives.

Eastman reported the restart, along with mitigating actions taken since the incident, is expected to enable full production of acetyls chemicals and derivatives in early 2018.

“Our teams of Eastman employees and contractors have been working to safely repair the facility as quickly as possible, and I am confident that we have taken the appropriate corrective actions to ensure the highest safety standard as we restart and resume normal operation,” said Mark Cox, senior vice president, chief manufacturing, supply chain and engineering officer. “We appreciate the support from our customers and are excited to resume normal commercial supply of all acetyls chemicals and derivatives.”

Eastman said in November the company had reached an agreement with BAE Systems and the Army to allow Eastman to operate assets adjacent to Eastman’s Kingsport site. The adjacent area is commonly known as “Area A.”

“We are leveraging our existing Eastman team and redeploying Eastman experts as needed and increasing our engagement with existing and new contract firms to safely and quickly make the Area A facility operable,” Eastman spokesman Brad Lifford said.

Eastman also fabricated 3,000 feet of pipe placed along a new path to service the coal gasification production area, according to an internal company document. Eastman’s maintenance team recruited welders from within the plant to lend expertise. As soon as the request was issued across the site, 10 certified welders volunteered to come over to the project. The line was operable on Tuesday, October 10. Eastman called it a “miracle effort.”

Coal gasification has made up a big part of Eastman’s acetyl stream, producing chemicals used to make various products, from pain relievers to photographic film.

The company reported the explosion was expected to impact operating earnings by between $50 million and $100 million, mostly in fourth quarter 2017.

For more information and stories about the recovery effort, go to the “Resolve and Recovery” page at www.eastman.com.

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