Price & Market Trends: Venezuela Amuay refinery restart is uncertain

07 September 2012 15:40  [Source: ICB]

Following a massive fire at Venezuela's Amuay refinery, an exact timeline for the restart of the facility remains uncertain.


Firefighters were still cooling the tanks three days after the blast

Copyright: Rex Features

Firefighters extinguished the blaze on 28 August, but were still focusing on cooling the walls of some of the fuel tanks to avoid any new flare-ups, according to local news media accounts.

The fire began after an explosion on 25 August killed 48 people and injured some 150 people.

The Amuay is part of the Paraguana Refining Complex.

Paraguana general manager Jesus Luongo estimated that the tank cooling operation may be completed within two days, according to news media reports.

Although it has been said that state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) already had a chronology for the restart of the parts of the refinery affected by the explosion, no details have surfaced. Most process plants are down, but there are parts already operating, Luongo said.

PDVSA president Rafael Ramirez said the next step is the inspection of the affected areas to determine the extent of the damages.

Although initially there were reports stating that the plant would be back in operations in 4 days, experts considered such outcome as overly optimistic. Just dealing with the fire and its impact was taking a full week, including the estimated time to cool the fuel tanks.

An expert with a US-based petrochemical construction company said: "Our speculation, with no more data than the photos published and what can be seen from outside the fence, is that just the evaluation of the damages may take a couple of months."

"Considering that the affected tanks were far away from the process plants, those plants could be easily restarted in a matter of weeks, depending on a number of factors. In a refinery of that magnitude, the loss of three tanks and a sphere is not that significant.

"Furthermore, the Amuay refinery is interconnected with the Punta Cardon refinery to the south, so it could be possible, perhaps, that the two refineries share resources to make up for the lost storage," the expert added.

Full replacement of the lost equipment, however, will take months, perhaps a couple of years, the expert added.

By: George Martin
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