Brussels -The Huntsman, BASF, Chinese joint-venture facility in Caojing, China, making crude MDI (methylene diisocyanate) was forced to suspend supplies of the MDI precursor to Huntsman Polyurethanes Shanghai (HPS) and its other customers (BASF AG and Bayer AG) in mid-December 2006, Huntsman Polyurethanes has confirmed. The outage is blamed on an "unexpected equipment failure on the plant," a Huntsman statement said. A water-cooled heat exchanger/condenser leaked internally and contaminated parts of the plant with water, the statement continued. The facility is expected to resume production in the second quarter. "The problem is within the plant equipment and there has been no loss of containment; nor are there any safety or environmental concerns," the company added. Since December, engineers and experts have cleared all contamination from the plant and a new heat exchanger is being procured, Huntsman said. The crude MDI plant, Shanghai Lianheng Isocyanate Co. Ltd (SLIC) is a 240-kilotonnes-per-annum facility to make crude MDI and precursors aniline and nitrobenzene. It was built by by BASF, Huntsman, and their Chinese partners. These are Shanghai Hua Group Co, Shanghai Chlor-Alkali Chemical Co. Ltd and Sinopec Shanghai Gao Qiao Petrochemical Corp. Huntsman added that HPS, its downstream majority-owned MDI finishing and pre-polymers operation, has remained in operation throughout the period. This unit has been "utilising crude MDI imported from the our facilities in Rozenburg, the Netherlands and Geismar, Louisiana to meet Asian demand for downstream MDI products," Huntsman added. (epw)"