Fire Erupts at Venezuela Refinery


Firefighters yesterday extinguished the last of three fuel storage tank fires triggered by a devastating gas leak explosion Saturday at Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.s Amuay refinery in Venezuela. The refinery has a base oil plant with 1,250 b/d API Group I capacity.

According to an Aug. 28 Bloomberg report, a gas leak that formed a cloud at the refinery exploded at 1:10 a.m. on Aug. 25, sending a ball of flame into the air, killing 48 people, destroying a nearby National Guard post and damaging about 500 homes. An Aug. 26 New York Times report said the blast also killed five workers at a lubricant manufacturing company’s plant located just outside the refinery grounds.

Rafael Ramirez, president of state-run PDVSA and Venezuelas minister of petroleum and mining, said in a statement Monday that the incident took place in the storage block on the southern end of the refinery, which is distant from its operational area.

All operational areas are perfectly normal, but as indicated by the protocol established for these events, some plants were shut down to prevent the flow of oil to the affected area and allow firefighters to concentrate on extinguishing the fire, Ramirez said.

According to Ramirez, the fire was put out through the work of more than 200 volunteer firefighters. He stated the area would remain cordoned off as part of the cooling process where the fire occurred and that the company would subsequently begin assessing the incident.

Eulogio Del Pino, PDVSAs vice president of exploration and production and president of Venezuelan Petroleum Corp., said in a broadcast on Venezolana de Television that a committee had been appointed to determine the causes of the incident and the source of the gas leak.

Amuay is part of the Paraguana Refining Center complex, which includes PDVSAs Cardon refinery. Cardon has a larger Group I base oil plant with 4,800 b/d capacity.

The Amuay refinery has about 645,000 b/d of fuel production capacity. According to Del Pino, the countrys national refining system still produces about 735,000 b/d of fuel at its other plants, which is considered almost three times the national domestic consumption of Venezuela at 280,000 b/d. The nation has an inventory of 4 million barrels of gasoline.

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