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Lightning strike sparks brief fire at Venezuela’s Puerto La Cruz refinery

08.12.2013  | 

A fire broke out at Venezuela's 187,000 bpd Puerto la Cruz oil refinery Sunday after the facility was struck by lightning, officials said. They noted that firefighters hoped to have the flames "totally extinguished" within hours, adding that the rest of the refinery continued to operate normally.

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By KEJAL VYAS

CARACAS -- Heavy storms affected two of Venezuela's key oil refineries as one facility was struck by lightning resulting in a fire while another was hit by a power outage, officials from Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA), said.

"We are experiencing some quite strong atmospheric conditions in all of the northern coastal part of the country, Asdrubal Chavez, PdVSA's VP of refining, said."

A large fire broke out at the country's 187,000 bpd Puerto la Cruz refinery after a lightning strike in the afternoon. The flames were completely extinguished by night, Mr. Chavez confirmed, adding that there were no injuries and that the refinery continued to operate normally.

Local media earlier showed tall flames and a towering cloud of black smoke coming from the key oil facility, which lies in the coastal city of Puerto la Cruz, about 160 miles east of Caracas.

Residents living around the refinery who were evacuated were starting to return to their houses, Mr. Chavez said.

Meanwhile, 230 miles west, the 140,000 bpd El Palito refinery was paralyzed after heavy rains caused a power outage in the region, a PdVSA spokesman said.

He said that workers had already begun restarting the facility and that it was expected to be fully operational soon.

The incidents are the latest to hit Venezuela's oil industry, which in recent years has been marred by frequent mishaps at its production and refining plants.

One year ago, more than 40 people were killed by a gas leak explosion at the Amuay refinery in the country's deadliest accident yet. Critics of the government blamed the explosion on lack of maintenance, charges that PdVSA officials firmly denied.

In his comments, Mr. Chavez assured that the company continues to conduct maintenance and preventative measures but noted that "sometimes these situations are uncontrollable."

Dow Jones Newswires



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JOSE LOPEZ
08.18.2013

The fire that occurred on Sunday in the facilities of the refinery in Puerto La Cruz, specifically in the separator ATI, it would have been able to control in an hour, said the expert in industrial safety, Gustavo Benitez. "The installation is equipped with all the necessary equipment. The main problem is that there was no foam", he added.

SANKAR MITRA
08.14.2013

Lightning is possible at any place. Lightning on refinery installations cane be very very disastrous.Precautionary measures need to be taken. Installation of lightning arrestors at suitable locations should be considered to avoid recurrence of such incidents.

Bilal Ahmed Awan
08.13.2013

Cause of the incident is missing; may be due to investigation would nbe under progress. Upon completion of the investigation, lesson learnt sharing would help other industry to take necessary preventive measure such as stregthening and maintenance of lightening protection system and alike.

Bernard Legrand
08.13.2013

Another Chavez???

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