USA: Investigation Underway Root-Causes for Fire at Wacker's Plant in Charleston

Editor: Alexander Stark

The explosion at Wacker's plant in Charleston on September 7 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 production plant.

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An equipment malfunction led to a hydrogen explosion at Wacker's polysilicon production plant in Charleston.
An equipment malfunction led to a hydrogen explosion at Wacker's polysilicon production plant in Charleston.
(Source: CC0)

Munich/Germany and Charleston/USA — After the incident at the site in Charleston, Tennessee root-cause investigation work is now underway. The company announced that it 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.

As a result of the explosion, 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 evaluated at the local hospital and were released the same day.

Financial effects stemming from this incident are expected to be only minor due to insurance coverage for damages and loss of production, the company claims.

“While we are working diligently towards resuming production, the safety of our employees and the community is our top priority,” said Tobias Brandis, Global President Wacker Polysilicon. He added that 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", Brandis said.

The manufacturer intends to use this downtime to provide its employees with advanced training courses.

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