Lightning sets fire to Orica gas discharge

A LIGHTNING strike ignited hydrogen gas and caused 20 metre high flames to leap into the sky over Kooragang Island last night during part of the re-start of the troubled Orica chemical plant.

An Orica spokeswoman said last night that the plant was discharging gas as part of the normal start-up procedure when lightning struck a stack about 10pm.

A Newcastle fire brigade spokesman said officers received numerous calls from residents in Stockton and The Hill who spotted the large flame over Kooragang Island.

The fire brigade investigated the fire but were told by Orica staff that the flames were under control.

An Orica spokeswoman said the phenomenon wasn’t uncommon during chemical plant start-ups.

‘‘It can tend to happen when a plant is discharging hydrogen gas, which it wouldn’t normally be doing when it

is up and running,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s not common but it’s also not uncommon.’’

A Stockton resident told the Newcastle Herald it was the first time she’d seen a large flame coming from the plant in her 10 years living in nearby Fullerton street.

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