Venezuela's PDVSA controls fire at small refinery, restarts other plants from outage

A state oil company PDVSA's logo is seen at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo

Oct 27 (Reuters) - A fire caused by a thunderstorm at Venezuela's smallest refinery has been brought under control, a Venezuelan minister said, as the country's largest refining facilities restart following a power outage last week, according to sources.

The incident at state oil company PDVSA's 146,000-barrel-per-day El Palito refinery occurred on Wednesday when a fuel tank was struck by lightning, Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos said in a state TV broadcast late that day, without providing further details.

"It has already been dealt with by firefighters and has been brought under control without further incident. Cool-down efforts are being carried out at the moment," Ceballos said.

PDVSA, which operates Venezuela's entire refining system, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Power outages, blackouts and equipment malfunctioning are very common in the South American country, whose aging refining network urgently requires repairs and equipment replacements.

A fire at a vacuum tower and a power blackout last week completely halted Venezuela's 955,000-barrel-per-day Paraguana Refining Center on the country's western coast, which ties together the Amuay and Cardon refineries.

As of Thursday, two of Cardon's four crude distillations units were back in service and workers were trying to resume operations at the naphtha reformer after the blackout, three sources from the complex said.

At the neighboring Amuay refinery, only one of its five distillation plants and the catalytic cracker - key for making gasoline - were working, two separate sources said. The next plant to be restored to service is the second distillation unit.

A previous fire also caused by lightning hit the 187,000-bpd Puerto La Cruz refinery on Venezuela's eastern coast and at a nearby fuel terminal in September.

Reporting by Mircely Guanipa and Deisy Buitrago; writing by Marianna Parraga Editing by Marguerita Choy

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.