Organización Editorial Mexicana
August 25, 2012
Reuters Paraguana, Venezuela. – A huge explosion at the refinery in Venezuela caused on Saturday killed at least 24 people and wounded more than 50, forcing the plant to stop in one of the major incidents that have recently beaten oil operations in the OPEC member country.
Large columns of smoke and flame of low intensity were observed eight hours after the blast about 10 kilometers from the refinery, but Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said that the fire had been reduced by 80 percent and that the installation reiniciría work in the next two days.
He said the plant accident will not affect the supply to the domestic market and exports, because there is sufficient fuel stocks. No obstante, However, authorities asked avoid nerve calls fuel purchases.
The explosion occurred around 01.00 local time on Saturday in the tank farm at the refinery, the product of a gas leak that caused the fire of nine storage tanks for crude oil and derivatives.
Around noon, Vice President Elias Jaua said the fire hit a pipeline carrying gasoline and explained that in the coming hours similar events could occur due to the high temperatures at the site.
The Amuay refinery, with a capacity of 645,000 barrels per day (bpd), operates in western Venezuela with Cardon refinery to form the Paraguana Refining Center (CRP), the second largest in the world with 955,000 bpd capacity.
“Unfortunately, 24 people have died, most of them troops of our National Guard (…) 50 people have thankfully been discharged because his injuries and the effect they had were minor,” said the broadcaster Jaua VTV state.
The explosion hit a security mainly occupied by National Guard troops. Three people were taken to a hospital specializing in burns in the neighboring city of Maracaibo.
“We had a gas leak in the area of olefins. Such a cloud of gas that then exploded (…) The blast was of significant magnitude such that no appreciable damage to infrastructure and homes that were in front of the refinery “said Ramirez.
Firefighters were still working in the area to put out the flames, while consuming the hydrocarbons contained in tanks affected. The residents of the area took refuge outside the city by high temperatures at the site of the explosion.
“The situation has changed dramatically, in a positive sense,” added the minister, who said the fire is confined to a part of the refinery.
GRAVE SERIOUS ACCIDENT
Senior government officials were mobilized to the scene, which was described by Jaua as “serious”.
Operations at airports near the area of the incident were closed and flights are only allowed to evacuate the wounded, according to official media.
President Hugo Chavez, who seeks his third term in the October elections, has not commented on the incident, while his rival, Henrique Capriles, regretted the loss of life and called for the “restoration of all people who have injured “.
The state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) has suffered numerous operational difficulties in recent years that have hurt his production and ability to meet its ambitious expansion goals.
CRP has been one of the hardest hit by the string of incidents and accidents, but in the last year there had been no incidents with fatalities.
Frequent failures in the power system, incidents and delays in planned maintenance at refineries affected units and, consequently, the volume of exports from Venezuela, an OPEC member country and the largest oil exporter in South America.
In 2004, a major fire in the terminal La Salina in Maracaibo, left about a dozen dead and 2010 fire consumed several tanks in a storage terminal in Bonaire PDVSA.