Crews extinguish fire at Venezuela's El Palito refinery

Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:01am EDT

* Lightning started blaze in two storage tanks

* One tank put out quickly, second late on Friday

CARACAS, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Firefighters extinguished a blaze in a fuel storage tank at Venezuela's El Palito refinery, state oil company PDVSA said on Saturday.

The fire was started by a lightning bolt during a storm Wednesday night, but the 146,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) El Palito facility continued operating. Two tanks were initially set alight, but the fire in one was put out within hours.

In a statement, PDVSA said the blaze in the second storage tank was completely extinguished late on Friday.

No one was hurt in Wednesday night's lightning strike.

The second refinery accident in a month has increased concerns about state oil company PDVSA's safety record and practices ahead of an Oct. 7 presidential election.

In August, PDVSA halted almost all output at the country's biggest refinery, Amuay, for six days after a gas leak caused an explosion that killed 42 people.

PDVSA has suffered a string of accidents, outages and unplanned stoppages for maintenance across its refinery network in recent years, hurting the OPEC nation's vital fuel exports.

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