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S-Oil CEO apologizes for deadly refinery explosion in Ulsan

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S-Oil CEO Hussain A. Al-Qahtani bows before announcing his apology statement at the company's plant in Ulsan, Friday. Yonhap
S-Oil CEO Hussain A. Al-Qahtani bows before announcing his apology statement at the company's plant in Ulsan, Friday. Yonhap

By Park Jae-hyuk

S-Oil CEO Hussain A. Al-Qahtani held a press conference in Ulsan, Friday, to make a public apology for Thursday night's explosion at the company's refinery in the southeastern industrial city, which killed one subcontracted worker and injured nine more.

His apology came after S-Oil also became the first foreign-invested company to come under investigation by the Ministry of Employment and Labor for an alleged violation of the Serious Accidents Punishment Act. The law calls for a prison sentence for a company's CEO if a fatal industrial accident occurs at a company worksite due to negligence.

Although S-Oil's largest shareholder is Saudi Arabia's state-owned Aramco and its CEO is a foreign national, the law also applies to foreign-invested companies and executives of foreign nationality.

"I would like to express my deepest condolences and apologies to the deceased who lost his life from an incident in S-Oil Onsan Refinery and to his family," he said. "My apologies also go out to the injured workers and local residents close to the refinery to whom we've caused discomfort. I myself and S-Oil will provide full support to make sure the injured workers get the best treatment possible and give utmost care to assist their quick recovery."

The Saudi Arabian CEO declined to answer questions from reporters during the press conference, as the investigation into the exact cause of the accident is still underway.

"The incident took place in the refinery's alkylation unit at approximately 20:50, May 19, during the start-up process after maintenance," he said. "We presume there was a fire in the compressor during start-up and are working closely with related authorities to find the root cause."

He added that the affected plant will be shut down until the cause is identified and preventive measures are put in place.

"In the meantime, we are exploring best solutions to make sure this does not cause any interruption in the domestic supply of fuel products by making full use of inventory and the domestic and overseas networks," he said.

The fatal explosion coincidentally occurred on the same day S-Oil announced that S&P Global Ratings had raised its outlook on the refiner's credit rating to "positive" from "stable."

The accident, however, does not appear to have had a significant impact on investor sentiment so far, given that S-Oil's stock price rose gradually, after falling sharply at the beginning of Friday's session.

Park Jae-hyuk

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