Mon, Mar 03, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Fire at Japanese oil refinery injures several workers

Reuters and AFP, TOKYO and BASRA, Iraq

Japanese oil refiner TonenGeneral Sekiyu KK said several workers were injured on Saturday when a fire broke out in the residue hydrocracking unit of its Kawasaki plant near Tokyo, but that other refining units were operating normally.

The fire spread from the reactor of the 31,000 barrel per day (bpd) hydrocracking unit during a cleaning at about 4:40am GMT, the company said in a statement.

The unit, which processes low-priced heavy oil into lighter products, such as gasoline, has been shut since early last month for maintenance, a company spokesman said.

The company has plans to raise the unit’s capacity to 34,500 bpd this month to meet Japanese government rules on improving efficiency.

TonenGeneral said the fire had been brought almost under control by pumping nitrogen into the unit. Six workers were treated at hospitals and one was admitted.

Local officials said the fire had not spread to surrounding facilities.

TonenGeneral said it was continuing normal operations at crude distillation and other secondary units at the Kawasaki plant, which has a 335,000 bpd capacity, and that there had been no effect on shipments from either its marine or truck terminals.

However, it was not yet clear what caused the fire, how much damage had been done, nor when the unit would resume operations, a spokesman said.

In other oil news, Iraq exported 2.8 million barrels per day last month, a top minister said on Saturday, a sharp month-on-month gain and the highest in at least 25 years.

Iraqi production reached 3.5 million barrels per day last month, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told reporters in Basra as he inaugurated a refinery.

The export figure was the highest since then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, triggering a crippling embargo and international sanctions that massively restricted Iraq’s energy industry.

Al-Shahristani said last month’s output was impacted by energy disputes in the Kurdish region.

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