UpdateGas leak causes Venezuela refinery blast, 26 people killed

25 August 2012 23:40  [Source: ICIS news]

(adds updates throughout)

MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--A gas leak caused an explosion that tore through Venezuela’s biggest oil refinery early on Saturday, killing 26 people and injuring at least 86, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company said.

The explosion occurred at the 645,000 bbl/day Amuay refinery at 01:15 hours local time (06:45 hours GMT), and was triggered by a gas leak in a storage depot that created a cloud and ignited, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA in a statement.

The resulting fire affected nine storage tanks holding mostly crude oil and some processed fuels including naphtha, the company said.

Local news media reports said most of those killed were National Guard troops who were providing security for the refinery.

Reports added that many more people were still unaccounted for.

PDVSA head Rafael Ramirez, told Venezuelan state television (VTV) that the fire was under control, although some tanks with fuel residue are still alight.

“There is no risk of further explosions,” he said.

PDVSA said that the refinery’s main units were temporarily closed, but expected to restart it within a maximum of two days.

According to PDVSA, the country has enough fuel supplies on hand to meet its domestic needs as well as its export commitments.

“There are sufficient inventories of fuel to ensure internal supplies and exports for 10 days,” the company said.

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez declared three days of national mourning for the victims.

The Amuay, Bajo Grande and Cardon refineries form part of the Paraguana Refining Complex, one of the largest in the world.

The complex can process 956,000 bbl/day of oil and produce 200,000 bbl/day of gasoline, and meets 71% of Venezuela's fuel requirements.

The Amuay refinery was temporarily shut down in July after a leak was detected in the main water intake to the cooling system.

The Amuay refinery also underwent two months of maintenance earlier this year.

Additional reporting by Brian Ford and Leela Landress

By: Simon West

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