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Venezuela Refinery Explodes

A refinery in northern Venezuela suffered a blast yesterday, and ousted leader Nicolas Maduro—still clinging to power—has stated it was a terrorist attack with a "large and powerful weapon."

An investigation into the attack has been launched, he added.

According to a report on the event by ABC News, Maduro went on to say that the country's security authorities had detained two foreign nationals just a day earlier. The foreigners had ties to extremist groups, Maduro also said, but did not go into any further detail.

"Venezuela is confronting a permanent conspiracy against our life, against our strategic industry, against the electricity service, the refinery, the oil industry, public services," Maduro said.

Argus Media reported that a crude oil distillation unit at the Amuay refinery had exploded on Wednesday, citing a manager from the facility as saying the damage was "very considerable." Another source from the refinery said the explosion may have been caused by a water leak that could have caused a vapor blast.

The distillation unit has a capacity of 100,000 bpd. The Amuay facility as a whole has a capacity of 635,000 bpd. PDVSA has been trying to boost processing rates there, as well as at the 305,000-bpd Cardon refinery, also in the area, to increase gasoline production amid a grave shortage.

This push to increase processing rates, according to one of the Argus sources, may have been what led to the explosion. According to the source, the company was neglecting safety concerns as it raced to bring more processing capacity online.

The damages to the distillation unit, the source told Argus, "appear initially to be so severe that the unit could be irrecoverable and may have to be rebuilt completely, but we have to wait until accident investigators complete their technical reports."

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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