Fire Under Control at the Total Refinery in Le Havre, the Largest in France

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The Total refinery at Gonfreville-l'Orcher, near Le Havre, after a fire that shifted into the night on December 14,th

The fire that broke out in the Gonfreville-l’Orcher refinery was on the verge of extinction, Saturday 14th December 2019. This platform produces 253,000 barrels per day.

The fire of a crude oil pump in the Total refinery of Normandy, the largest in France classified Seveso high threshold, caused significant plumes of smoke Saturday, December 14, 2019, at dawn on an area of ten kilometres east of Le Havre (Seine-Maritime), without causing any injuries, before being brought under control.

This incident comes the day after the signing of a prefectural order authorizing the partial but highly contested reopening of the Lubrizol factory in Rouen, also classified as a high threshold Seveso site, part of which was ravaged by flames on September 26th, causing a gigantic plume of black smoke 22 kilometres long.

“At 4 am this morning, a crude oil fire broke out in a refinery unit at the Total plant, in the commune of Gonfreville-l’Orcher. A pump used to circulate crude oil within the refinery caught fire generating smoke on the industrial area of ​​the port, “said the prefecture of Seine-Maritime in a statement.

The smoke affected the towns of Sandouville, Rogerville, Oudalle, Gonfreville-l’Orcher and Saint Vigor d’Ymonville, at the mouth of the Seine, ten kilometres east of Le Havre.


A security perimeter has been set up around the site. An unusual hot tar odor floated in the atmosphere, in a misty and windy atmosphere, found an AFP correspondent.

“I was born there. I have lived with the refinery for 77 years, ”says Christiane, who lives near the site. “We are not particularly worried. I haven’t seen or heard anything. The windows were black this morning but it is common, “she added.

Jerome, who lives in the White Coast neighbourhood, in front of the refinery, also “saw nothing or heard nothing”, except for a helicopter that flew over the site, and did not “worry.”

“No danger”

“We live with the refinery, it’s a choice to be there. We are working on the technological risk prevention plan (PPRT), there is work in progress to reinforce the roofs and the windows “, indicates for his part Nathalie Coustham, who has lived for twenty years in Côtes Blanches, the closest to the refinery.

The prefecture lifted in the middle of the morning its recommendation to shelter people. “Chemical risk assessment measures for populations (mainly personnel working in the industrial area), carried out by the Departmental Fire and Rescue Service (SDIS), did not reveal any element of toxicity ( sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide), “she said in a statement.

“It is a failure of a pump, we are headed for a technical incident,” said the prefecture by phone. An internal operation plan (POI) was launched by the group at 4:10 am and the fire was brought under control six hours later, thanks to the human resources deployed by the operator, around fifty people, assisted by a team of evaluation of the fire brigade.

“This event did not cause any injuries or cause an accident. The threat of spread is averted. The fire is on the way out, “said the prefecture.

In a press release, the Total group confirmed that the fire started “on a feedstock pump for the atmospheric distillation of the refinery”.

253,000 barrels per day

Questioned by AFP, the group specifies that the plume of smoke is “weak” and that the sector concerned “is localized”, the petrochemical activity of the site not being affected.

In a press release, the mayor of Gonfreville-l’Orcher Alban Bruneau (PCF), who visited the site, said that in light of his “own findings” and information relating to the incident, he did not ” it was not useful to have recourse to the various alert networks in the absence of danger ”.

Alban Bruneau abstained Tuesday during the vote on the reopening of Lubrizol of the Departmental Committee for the environment and health and technological risks (Coderst). Contacted by AFP, the factory unions were not immediately available.

According to the group, the Total platform in Normandy is the largest refining-petrochemical platform in France. The site employs 1,500 people and has a production capacity of 253,000 barrels per day.

Fire Under Control at the Total Refinery in Le Havre, the Largest in France 1

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