KUWAIT, (Reuters) – An explosion at Kuwait’s 200,000 barrel-per-day Shuaiba oil refinery on Saturday led to its partial shutdown but there were no casualties, a refinery official said.
Hussein Ismail, deputy managing director, told Reuters by telephone that the country’s smallest refinery was operating at a reduced rate of 130,000 bpd after the blast and ensuing fire in the heavy oil, or residue, processing unit.
“The refinery is not shut down totally,” Ismail said. He said units shut included the 25,000-bpd residue processing unit as well as some support units. Ismail said it was too early to say when Shuaiba would be back to full operations.
“We don’t know. That depends on the extent of the damage,” Ismail told reporters at the plant, some 50 kms (30 miles) south of the capital Kuwait City.
Earlier, a spokesman for state refiner Kuwait National Petroleum Co. said a fire was blazing at the 25,000-bpd residue processing unit in Shuaiba refinery.
“There was an explosion in one of the lines of the heavy oil unit and it resulted in a fire,” spokesman Mohammad al-Ajmi told Reuters. “There are no casualties.”
Ajmi said fire fighters and emergency teams were still trying to extinguish the fire. He said the refinery was being evacuated according to the safety procedures.
The ageing coastal refinery in southern Kuwait, commissioned in 1968, is due to be mothballed by 2010 when a new 615,000-bpd environmentally-friendly refinery is due to be finished.
Shuaiba refinery produces light, medium and heavy products, including gas, ordinary naphtha, gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil and diesel, according to KNPC’s Web site. It said the majority of the refinery products are exported to world markets.
The official news agency KUNA said authorities would investigate the cause of the blast. Ismail told reporters that terrorism was ruled out.
Gulf OPEC producer Kuwait has a total crude distillation capacity of up to 930,000 bpd from three refineries.
Late last week KNPC shut down two crude units at its second-largest refinery, the 270,000 bpd Mina Abdullah plant, for routine maintenance. Officials said this maintenance meant “the entire refinery is almost shut” and would last for 10 days.