Peru, short on fuel, okays temporary restart at Repsol refinery after spill

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A view shows the Repsol's La Pampilla refinery in Ventanilla, Peru February 3, 2022. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

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LIMA, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Peru's environmental inspector, responding to fuel supply shortages, on Saturday authorized temporary resumption of hydrocarbon loading and unloading operations at sea at a refinery owned by Spain's Repsol (REP.MC) which had been halted during a probe of a major oil spill.

The La Pampilla refinery, the largest in Peru, supplies 40% of the Peruvian fuel market and accounts for 54% of the Andean country's refining capacity. Operations at La Pampilla terminals off Peru's coast can resume for 10 days under Saturday's decision. They were suspended on Jan. 31 after a spill of more than 10,000 barrels of oil in the middle of last month.

The spill was blamed in part on unusual waves caused by a volcanic eruption in far off Tonga.

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The Agency for Environmental Assessment and Control (OEFA) said the approval was only a temporary restart and did not mean "administrative measures" to halt loading activities at the terminals were being fully lifted.

On Friday, the embassies in Peru of the Netherlands and France said they were "concerned" about fuel supply shortages hitting flights between Peru and Europe, adding Repsol supplies 70% of the fuel for the local commercial aviation industry.

On Thursday, the government said Peru could face fuel shortages due to the ban on loading and unloading at the plant, a move which Repsol has called "disproportionate."

Repsol, facing a major backlash over the spill, has said it will finish cleaning up the oil in the sea and on the coast by the end of March. Peruvian prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against executives and the government is evaluating requests for compensation for damages.

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Reporting by Marco Aquino; Editing by Adam Jourdan and David Gregorio

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