By KEJAL VYAS
CARACAS -- Top officials from Venezuelan state oil monopoly
Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, said Tuesday the
countrys largest refinery, which was mostly shut down
after a deadly explosion last weekend, could fully restart
operations once it is deemed safe.
Some processing units unrelated to the storage tanks that
were set ablaze for three days could restart as soon as
Wednesday, Jesus Luongo, a PdVSA director, told reporters at
the 640,000 bpd Amuay refinery, where a gas-leak blast
early Saturday killed 48 people.
While authorities have yet to give a full assessment of damage
and repair costs, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said the site was
insured and the government has begun the process of seeking
Mr. Ramirez also said exports wouldn't be affected by the
accident and guaranteed domestic fuel supplies wouldn't be
Once we determine we are in [the right] conditions, we
will take our time proceeding plant by plant, putting the refinery back into operation
Mr. Luongo, who is in charge of the Paraguana Refining Complex that holds Amuay,
said earlier on state television.
Officials had been saying that Amuay could return to normal
operations in two days. Union officials have said the plant was
operating well below capacity, and Mr. Ramirez earlier this
year acknowledged the Paraguana complex, as a whole, was
operating at 79% capacity.
Mr. Luongo said while the majority of processing
plants were stopped, some have been working since the event,
dispatching fuel without problems.
The Amuay disaster has cast a spotlight on management of the
nationalized oil industry under President Hugo Chavez, who is
seeking a third six-year term in the Oct. 7 election.
Critics say the leftist government has shortchanged
investments into maintenance as it uses large chunks
of PdVSAs income to finance state social programs.
Opposition assemblyman Hiram Gaviria said Tuesday the
government should order a congressional panel to investigate
the refinery accident and question Mr.
Mr. Gaviria, speaking on television station Globovision,
said the government shouldn't cover up what has
happened like it was accused of doing after other disasters,
including a 2010 scandal in which imported food shipments were
left to rot and an oil spill earlier this year in Monagas
In each of these events there is a common denominator:
Minister Rafael Ramirez.
But Mr. Chavez saw no fault in Mr. Ramirez's management,
congratulating him and other PdVSA officials on putting the
Rafael, feel proud, Mr. Chavez said during a
televised meeting with cabinet members, adding that Mr. Ramirez
had done everything that needed to be done.
Last week, Mr. Chavez appointed the oil minister to continue
serving in his position for another six years.
Dow Jones Newswires