A week long unplanned emergency shutdown has been announced by Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL) to fix a problem in the naphtha cracker complex. This is HPL’s second closure after the company increased its capacity under “Project Supermax” in August. Initially, the cause of underperformance could not be determined. Subsequently, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) was called, it was observed that there was a major restriction in one of the fractionating columns when operating at temperatures of -130 degree Celsius). After analysing all data, HPL and its technology licensor CBI Lummus decided to use the gamma ray screening technology from BARC. The gamma ray technology uses advanced radioactive screening to get an internal picture of the operating equipment from the outside. This has revealed the presence of frozen icy mass as the reason for the block in the fractionator. By heating the column at a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius, the obstruction will be removed without anyone having to enter the column, allowing the plant to be back in production by this weekend.
As a result of the teething troubles of Project Supermax, HPL is likely to miss its target of Rs 400 crore profit after tax for 2010-11. Post-Supermax, the plant produced only a negligible volume in Q1 of this fiscal, resulting in losses. This was followed by the cracker problems. July-September quarter was good in terms of sales and profit, but it would be difficult to predict whether the company would earn profit as the operation was restricted from August because of the present problem.