UPDATE 1-Blackout halts Isla oil refinery in Curacao - workers

Sun Jul 7, 2013 2:09pm EDT

By Umpi Welvaart

WILLEMSTAD, July 7 (Reuters) - A blackout on the Caribbean island of Curacao temporarily halted operations at its 335,000 barrel per day (bpd) Isla oil refinery, workers at the facility said on Sunday.

The refinery, which is crucial to the Dutch island nation's economy, is run by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. The power cut hit the whole of Curacao, the workers said, including the plant that provides Isla with electricity, water and steam.

That plant is operated by the Curacao government. Workers at Isla said power began to return across the island within minutes of the blackout.

PDVSA officials were not immediately available to comment on the stoppage.

The refinery is a major asset for the company. Isla makes up more than 10 percent of its global refining capacity, while a neighboring tank depot can hold up to 16 million barrels of crude - a key staging point for PDVSA's oil shipments to China.

Unlike most coastal facilities in OPEC nation Venezuela, the terminal and the nearby island of Bullenbaai can receive large tankers, including VLCCs (very large crude carriers). Curacao lies about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Venezuela.

Last week, PDVSA said a small explosion and fire hit the flexicoker unit of its biggest refinery, the 645,000 bpd Amuay facility. No one was hurt in the accident.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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