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Lightning Bolt Sparks Fire at Venezuelan Oil Refinery

During torrential thunderstorms over the weekend a lightning bolt struck a storage tank at a refinery on Sunday, causing a huge blaze. Having suffered similar such accidents in the past PDVSA, the state owned oil company that runs the facility, was already well prepared for such events, and fire fighters were quickly on the scene, working to get the blaze under control. A top company official announced that the fire had been put out by the end of the day.

Last year, at a different refinery, lighting strikes managed to ignite two other storage tanks.

No one was hurt in the incident at the Puerto La Cruz facility, a 187,000 barrels a day refinery situated in the eastern state of Anzoategui, but residents living within one kilometre were evacuated until the fire was successfully put out, in what officials express was merely a precaution.

Huge blaze at Puerto La Cruz refinery
Huge blaze at Puerto La Cruz refinery. (Yahoo)

Asdrubal Chavez, the vice president of refining at PDVSA announced that “the fire has been completely extinguished,” thanks to the fire fighters “sustained effort which allowed us to control this important fire in record time.”

Related article: Rig Fire Exposes Lingering Dangers of Offshore Drilling

In a separate event, but also caused as a result of the thunderstorms, PDVSA stated that operations at its 146,000 barrel a day El Palito refinery had also been stopped due to a power cut.

Over the years PDVSA has been criticised for poor management, resulting from Hugo Chavez’s decision to nationalise the company, leading to serious underinvestment that has been blamed for many accidents and unplanned stoppages.

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Last year, the giant 645,000 barrel a day Amuay oil refinery suffered one of the world’s worst industry accidents for decades when a gas leak ignited causing an explosion and subsequent fire that destroyed hundreds of local houses and the deaths of more than 40 people.

This disaster cut domestic production levels, forcing Venezuela to become a net gasoline importer in order to meet demand.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com



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