A violent explosion that killed 48 people rocked Venezuela’s Amuay refinery on Saturday. The explosion was then followed by an intense fire, which was only extinguished earlier today. The country’s Energy Ministry Rafale Ramirez said that the refinery (the world’s second largest) would be operational again on Friday.
President Chavez has reportedly set up an emergency fund of approximately US$ 23 million to pay for rebuilding and repair operations, as well as to re-house civilians who lost their homes to the explosion.
The explosion has come at a point just weeks before the Venezuelan presidential election and Chavez has come under some intense criticism for his perceived role allowing the explosion to occur. Some analysts have pointed to his drawing of money away from PDVSA to fund expensive social programmes in the run up to the election. The outcome of this being that PDVSA was less able to perform vital maintenance and ensure the integrity of the refinery’s systems.
PDVSA has also come under scrutiny as revelations have been made regarding the company’s long-term safety record. Eddie Ramírez, a spokesman for a watchdog that monitors PDVSA stated that the company had an incident rate several times higher than that of the Columbian national oil company. PDVSA had reportedly scheduled 9 maintenance operations at the Amuay refinery last year, but postponed 6 of them.
PDVSA currently produces approximately 2.6 million bpd, roughly 1 million bpd less than in 1997 before Chavez was elected.
Edited from various sources by David Bizley