September 21, 2010 / 1:16 AM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-Workers halt oil spill from pipeline in Venezuela

3 Min Read

* Spill near western town of Dabajuro

* Technicians restart pipeline after repairs

* Latest accident to hit state-run PDVSA (Updates with PDVSA restarts pipeline, paragraph 5)

By Sailu Urribarri

PUNTO FIJO, Venezuela, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Workers have stopped an oil leak from a pipeline leading to Venezuela's biggest refinery in the latest accident to hit the country's state-run company PDVSA, officials said on Monday.

PDVSA has suffered three fires at its facilities in the past two weeks, followed by a small explosion at its 146,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) El Palito refinery on Saturday and then the oil leak from the pipeline in western Falcon state.

A government spokesman and clean-up workers said the leak near the town of Dabajuro had been plugged.

"We managed to seal the pipe. For now, there's just residue left and the spilled oil, but the effort continues," one worker told Reuters. It was not clear how much oil was spilled.

Later on Monday, PDVSA said in a statement the pipeline had been restarted in "record time" and was working normally.

The pipeline leads from Zulia state, Venezuela's oldest oil production area, to the 645,000 bpd Amuay refinery, which is part of the Paraguana Refining Center -- one of the world's biggest refinery complexes with a capacity of 955,000 bpd.

Dabajuro residents said three homes had been damaged by the spill and that heavy rains had slowed the clean-up.

"We can't even cook at the moment to avoid danger from the gas," said one local woman, Yolanda Rojas. "Yesterday, they told us they could clean up the area within a week."

The Paraguana Refining Center is also home to PDVSA's 310,000 bpd Cardon refinery, where loading resumed last Wednesday after a dock fire had temporarily halted shipping.

That blaze followed two other fires at oil terminals on the Caribbean islands of Bonaire and Curacao that could curb PDVSA's efforts to increase exports to China. [ID:nN17156399]

Residents near the El Palito refinery, in central Carabobo state, reported hearing an explosion at the facility early on Saturday, but workers there told Reuters operations had not been affected. PDVSA has made no official comment.

The incidents are just the latest in a series of accidents and maintenance outages across PDVSA's refining and distribution network that have cut output in recent months and forced South America's top crude producer to import products. (Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Caracas; Writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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