Venezuela extinguishes refinery blaze, aims for restart this week

29 August 2012 00:12  [Source: ICIS news]

MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--Venezuelan firefighters extinguished a refinery fire on Tuesday that resulted from a deadly explosion, paving the way for a positive restart as early as Thursday, Venezuela’s state-run oil company said on Tuesday.

“The fire at Block 23 of the Amuay refinery has been totally extinguished,” PDVSA head Rafael Ramirez said on Venezuelan state television.

“The area will remain cordoned off while firefighters attempt to cool the area with foam,” he said.

Ramirez said that operations at the 645,000 bbl/day refinery could restart “in a couple of days,” he said, adding, “It will be business as usual at the Paraguana Refining Complex.”

Local news media reports said that a blaze at a third tank flared up at least twice on Tuesday morning before being contained and finally stamped out at 10:30 hours local time (16:00 GMT).

The explosion on Saturday was believed to have been caused by a gas leak in a storage depot, which created a cloud that then ignited.

The explosion and fire have claimed the lives of 48 people and injured at least 150.

PDVSA head of safety Angel Esteban said on Venezuelan television that an investigation was underway.

“At the moment we are clearing debris and sifting through the damage caused by the explosion,” he said.

“Yes, we know there was a gas leak. But what caused the gas leak? It would be irresponsible to speculate at this time,” he said.

Esteban joined Rafael Ramirez in brushing off accusations that maintenance flaws helped lead to the accident, pointing to the billions of dollars that have been spent in recent years on upkeep at refineries including Amuay.


By: Simon West
713-525-2653



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