Daniel Cancel and Jose Orozco
Bloomberg Businessweek
August 28, 2012

Venezuelan firefighters struggled to contain the last fire at the South American country’s largest oil refinery after a second flare-up at a fuel storage tank.

Flames and black smoke billowed from the storage area of the Amuay refinery at 10:05 a.m. local time, about 30 minutes after Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told state television that the fires had been extinguished completely. Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company known as PDVSA, has put out two fires that began on Aug. 25 after a gas explosion killed 48 people.

Ramirez, who also heads PDVSA, said firefighters were attempting to cool the storage area and PDVSA was looking to begin output “in a few days.” He said previously that restarting production won’t begin until all fires are out.

Amuay, which has the capacity to process 645,000 barrels a day, forms part of the Paraguana complex 240 miles west of Caracas. Damage was limited to the storage tanks and Venezuela has had enough gasoline inventories to meet all commitments, Ramirez said. An extended shutdown threatens supplies of refined petroleum products as U.S. Gulf Coast plants halt operations with Tropical Storm Isaac heading toward the region.

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