Police established a 500-meter security perimeter Friday afternoon around a biofuel factory in Grand-Couronne, France, where firefighters intervened after an explosion and fire.
“We heard the explosion, saw the fireball and the smoke, but who, what, how, we don’t know,” an employee told journalist Raphael Tual.
A Twitter message issued by the Prefect (magistrate) of Seine-Martime states that the northern French facility, owned by the Saipol group, is ranked as a low-level SEVESO site, meaning that it is linked to the handling or manufacture of substances considered dangerous.
Staff at the biofuel factory have evacuated the facility. Students attending local schools have been ordered to shelter in place.
Grand-Couronne Mayor Patrice Dupray, quoted by Tual, described the incident as harmless.
“There is no casualty and not risk of toxicity,” Dupray said. “It is not Lubrizol.”
A massive fire in September 2019 destroyed more than 9,500 tons of chemicals at Lubrizol and an adjoining storage facility, both located in the nearby Normandy community of Rouen. Resulting environmental damage to the region is the subject of an ongoing parliamentary investigation in France.
Saipol, a subsidiary of the Avril group, produces low-carbon fuel produced from French rapeseed and sold to corporate and municipal fleets.