Fire and explosion at Total's Lindsey oil refinery

LONDON (Reuters) - A fire broke out at Total SA’s Lindsey oil refinery in England Tuesday, injuring two people and shutting down one key part of the plant although other units were protected from the blaze, the company said.

A spokeswoman at Total UK said the fire, followed by a small explosion, began at 11:57 a.m., and the company put the refinery’s emergency plan into operation shortly after.

“The roll call is on-going, at present two people are being treated for injuries, one of whom has been taken to hospital,” the Total spokeswoman said.

Residents near the plant said black smoke could be seen billowing above the refinery from the village of Broughton, 12 miles (20km) to the west. They said winds were blowing the cloud to the east, out over the Humber river and away from homes.

The blaze shut down one of the two working crude distillation units (CDU) -- the large towers used in the first step for processing crude oil in the refining process.

Television pictures showed large clouds of black smoke and some flames inside the refinery perimeter.

A Humberside fire and rescue services spokesman said up to 50 firefighters were at the scene, with a police helicopter deployed initially.

A second refinery spokesman said rail transport of oil products out of the refinery had been halted temporarily while firefighters fought to contain the blaze, but shipments from their 223,000 barrel-per-day plant had resumed by mid-afternoon.

Road shipments were still suspended, the spokesman said, and all the adjacent refining units had been safely isolated.

Across the railway tracks from the Lindsey refinery is the Humber Refinery, owned by ConocoPhillips, site of a major fire and explosion on Easter Monday in 2001 that damaged both refineries and caused widespread damage to homes and businesses within a 1-km radius.

Tuesday’s fire at Lindsey refinery was much smaller than the 2001 blaze. Although Humberside police initially asked residents not to leave their homes, there were no immediate calls to evacuate.

Total, Europe’s largest refiner, partly shut the Lindsey refinery in late May until the end of July ahead of a planned sale of the plant later this year.

Reporting by Chris Baldwin; editing by Ikuko Kurahone and Anthony Barker