The chemical plant, owned by Nypro UK and in operation since 1967, produced 70000tons per year of caprolactam, a precursor chemical used in the manufacture of nylon 6.
The process involved oxidation of cyclohexane with air in a series of six reactors to produce a mixture of cyclohexanol and cyclohexanone.
How did it happened?
Reactor 1 Reactor 1 Reactor 6 Reactor 5 Reactor 1 Reactor 4 Two months prior to the explosion, a crack was discovered in the number 5 reactor. It was decided to install a temporary 50 cm (20 inch) diameter pipe to bypass the leaking reactor to allow continued operation of the plant while repairs were made. The pipe connecting the reactor supposedly 28inch in diameter. Failure of bypass pipe in controlling the pressure and temperature causing the temporary pipe to crack and rupture. Operating condition at 155°C and 7.9atm At 16:53 on Saturday 1 June 1974, the temporary bypass pipe ruptured, possibly as a result of a fire on a nearby pipe which had been burning for nearly an hour.