Explosion at Sasol US chemical plant

Sasol has reported an explosion which resulted in a fire at its controversial US chemicals plant.

The petrochemicals giant said in a statement the incident took place on Monday at the Lake Charles Chemicals Project in Louisiana, in a unit which will produce low-density polyethylene.

The controversial plant has been marred by cost overruns that cost Sasol's joint CEOs Bongani Nqwababa and Stephen Cornell their jobs last year.

"The unit has been shut down and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the incident," the company said, adding that the unit was in the final stages of commissioning and startup when the incident occurred.

Sasol said other Lake Charles units were unaffected by the explosion and were operating as normal.

The company revealed last year that the project, which will have seven production units that deliver various chemicals, including a plastics variant called polyethylene, will cost between $12.6bn and  $12.9bn – almost double the original budgeted amount.

The cost escalation was blamed on poor project management and forced the resignation of Nqwababa and Cornell in October. However, the company did not find them guilty of any wrongdoing in the matter.

An independent investigation into the Lake Charles Chemicals Project found inappropriate conduct and incompetence in its project management team.

It also found "an improper tone at the top of the LCCP", and that managers didn't provide accurate cost and schedule estimations to Nqwababa and Cornell.

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