Plant’s blast to be probed

Emergency services were on scene minutes after an explosion at the Astron Energy refinery in Milnerton.

The management of Astron Energy’s Milnerton refinery will be called before a provincial parliament standing committee to explain what caused the blast that killed two workers and injured seven others at the plant.

Derrick America, a DA member of parliament and the party’s spokesman on local government, said Astron management would be asked to brief the provincial standing committee for local government. A date for this briefing has not been set.

The blast at the refinery in the early hours of Thursday July 2 killed a man and a woman.

In 2018 Astron Energy, part of the Glencore Group, entered the South African market through a majority acquisition of the former Chevron South Africa Pty (Ltd).

A memorial service will be held at the refinery this week for the two victims identified as Mpilo Sibiya, 32, and Likhona Vece, 27.

Both had studied at the Cape Town University of Technology (CPUT) and worked as process operators at the refinery.

The CPUT Alumni/Convocation in a statement said: “The faculty of engineering and built environment as well as the department of chemical engineering convey deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues at Astron and CPUT. The country has been robbed of young and promising engineers.”

According to Astron Energy spokeswoman Suzanne Pullinger, six of the seven people hospitalised

by the explosion had been discharged; the seventh was in a stable condition.

Astron Energy CEO Jonathan Molapo said: “The entire company is in deep distress at the loss of these two young and talented chemical engineers, and we will continue to provide the necessary support to their families.”

Mr America said Astron Energy, along with relevant safety officials, would be asked to brief the committee on what had caused the explosion and how something similar could be prevented in future.

Emergency services were on the scene shortly after the 4.12am blast, which was caught on a home security camera facing the refinery and felt as far away as Claremont. The footage was posted on social media.

Ms Pullinger said Astron was doing all it could to support the families, friends and colleagues of those killed and injured in the blast.

The company was committed to a full investigation of the incident, in co-operation with all the relevant authorities.

“A post-incident risk assessment has been conducted and there is no health risk to the communities surrounding the refinery. The overall plant remains stable. The affected area is barricaded and we continue to have support from the local authorities,” she said.

The incident did not pose a threat to fuel supplies, she added.

Mr America noted that Astron Energy was the third largest crude oil refinery in the country. Its production includes petrol, diesel, and liquefied gas.

“It is important that we learn lessons from this incident, including measures taken by the company and its protocol in managing such issues. We need to develop best practices, so that the entire industry can benefit,” he said.