Venezuela officials push for Wednesday Amuay refinery restart

27 August 2012 22:45  [Source: ICIS news]

MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--The head of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company said the fire-stricken Amuay refinery may be restarted by Wednesday

The death toll from the explosion and fire at the 645,000 bbl/day refinery rose to at least 48, according to news media reports.

The number of injured rose to 150, while some people were still unaccounted for, reports said.

Fires at the refinery were still burning nearly three days after the explosion, according to news media accounts.

PDVSA head Rafael Ramirez told Venezuelan state television on Monday that the fire was contained to two storage tanks and should be extinguished “within a matter of hours.”

“We have 220 firemen using foam to extinguish both fires,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said that all distribution plants were operating normally. He denied reports that there were problems in fuel supply in the state of Zulia.

Ramirez said that the refinery was expected to restart on Wednesday, reiterating that there were sufficient inventories to ensure fuel supply for 10 days.

According to sources, the explosion and fire at Venezuela’s Amuay refinery appeared to have no impact on petrochemical production.

Colombian polypropylene (PP) producer Propilco, which receives propylene from the Profalca plant close to the Cardon refinery, said that propylene supplies had not been affected.

“The information that we have is that Profalca hasn’t been affected by the blast and that there will be no disruption to propylene supply,” a Propilco executive said.

Ramirez said an official investigation was underway.

“We are currently working on the causes, immediate consequences and necessary actions to take,” he said.

The PDVSA head disputed claims by civil and trade union groups that bad management and a lack of maintenance caused the explosion.

“We have spent $4.8bn [€3.8bn] on maintenance at the Paraguana Refining Complex in the last five years,” said Ramirez.

“The storage area where the gas leak occurred has received maintenance very recently and all gas valves met rigorous safety standards,” he said.

“This undermines reports that gas leaks were caused by a lack of maintenance,” he added.

($1 = €0.80)

By: Simon West

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