By LAURENCE ILIFF
MEXICO CITY -- Mexican state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said Wednesday that at least 29 workers were killed and a number of others injured in a fire at a natural gas-reception facility in the northern state of Tamaulipas.
Pemex said seven workers remained hospitalized, one in serious condition, and seven others were still missing.
The fire broke out in the late morning at a gas-reception center located on a highway that runs from the northern city of Monterrey to the US-Mexico border city of Reynosa.
The facility receives natural gas and condensates from the company's Burgos production complex for transfer to its gas and petrochemical division, the company said.
The accident was caused when a large flame was sparked during maintenance work at a part of the facility that wasn't in operation, Pemex said on Twitter.
Rescue teams shut down the valves at the facility and Pemex dispatched a special team of firefighters who worked with local fire crews, the company said. They contained the fire just after midday, it said.
The dead included four Pemex employees and 25 people working for companies doing contract work for Pemex, the company said via Twitter. The company had earlier put the death toll at 10.
Valves and other equipment were damaged as a result of the fire, the company said.
Pemex executives in Mexico City were headed to site to assess the damage.
Pemex has suffered from a persistent shortage of natural gas this year, forcing industries to cut back on their use of the fuel and prompting sharp criticism from industry groups.
The company also had issued a series of critical alerts due to low pressure in the gas pipeline system, which could damage the network.
The state-run electricity utility Comision Federal de Electricidad, or CFE, said Friday that the shortage of natural gas had forced it to use more fuel oil and diesel at its power plants.
Pemex has imported more natural gas in recent months in an effort to meet rising demand.
In late August, Energy Minister Jordy Herrera outlined a number of pipeline projects that he said would eventually provide Mexico with the infrastructure needed to move gas from where it is produced to where it is needed.
Dow Jones Newswires