* Local officials order plant shutdown, investigation
* Blast at resting area kills one worker, injures another
* Bahia Blanca refinery has a capacity of 31,000 bpd
(Recasts with Petrobras confirming plant shutdown)
By Walter Bianchi
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 10 (Reuters) - An explosion early Wednesday at a small refinery in Argentina killed one worker and injured another, and local officials ordered Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA) to shut down the facility, the company said.
Operations at the 31,000 barrel-per-day refinery, in the port city of Bahia Blanca in Buenos Aires province, were not affected but local officials ordered the plant closed pending an investigation.
“The refinery was preventively stopped on a request by Bahia Blanca’s deputy secretary of the environment,” Petrobras said in a statement. Local officials had said it would take two days for the refinery to gradually shut down.
The blast happened in a rest area when two workers walked in after their shift.
“When they switched on the lights there was an explosion,” Pedro Milla, an official with Argentina’s Federation of Oil, Gas and Biofuels Workers, told Reuters.
Although the plant only accounts for five percent of Argentina’s total refining capacity of 627,000 BPD, high energy demand during the Southern Hemisphere winter could force the country to import more fuel. For more see, [ID:nN1296899]
Energy reserves have fallen in recent years in Latin America’s third-biggest economy, and the country has had to import more fuel to meet its needs. Critics blame government intervention in the market and political uncertainty for discouraging investment. (Additional reporting by Alejandro Lifschitz, Guido Nejamkis, and Gabriel Burin in Buenos Aires and Denise Luna in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by by Luis Andres Henao; Editing by David Gregorio)