Venezuela imports gasoline to supply local market after Amuay disaster


CARACAS -- Government-run energy monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, has ordered at least 860,000 bbl in gasoline shipments to feed its domestic market after a major explosion at the country’s largest oil refinery last weekend rendered most of the facility paralyzed, a company official with knowledge of the shipments said Friday.

PdVSA expects the shipments to enter Venezuela from three vessels soon, said the official, who asked not to be identified because he isn't authorized to speak publically on the matter.

He added that two additional shipments are also expected to be contracted but he didn't have details on their size.

The news came in the aftermath of a Saturday explosion at the oil-rich country's 640,000 bpd Amuay refinery, seen as one of Venezuela's worst industrial accidents ever.

Believed to have been sparked by a gas leak, the predawn blast killed more than 40 people, many of which were members of Venezuela's National Guard posted at the site.

While officials have yet to give a full assessment of damage and reparation costs, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez has maintained that exports and domestic fuel supplies won't be disrupted.

Mr. Ramirez said Wednesday night that he expected the Amuay facility to be restarted “in a few days” and that it would be able to regain previous capacity.

Flames consuming three fuel storage tanks after the explosion were extinguished Tuesday morning and a total of nine tanks were affected by the accident. Government officials, however, said the processing part of the plant was intact.

Amuay is one of two major facilities at the country's Paraguana refining complex, which has a capacity to process more than 900,000 bpd of crude oil.

Union officials said the complex was operating well below capacity before the weekend accident, and Mr. Ramirez earlier this year acknowledged the Paraguana complex, as a whole, was operating at 79% capacity.

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 have said the leftist government has shortchanged investments into maintenance as it uses large chunks of PdVSA's income to finance state social programs.

Dow Jones Newswires

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