August 17, 2010 / 10:06 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Explosion hits Venezuela's Puerto La Cruz refinery

* No injuries at 187,000 bpd refinery

* PDVSA says production not affected

* Alkylation unit stopped after blast (Adds quotes, details, background, byline)

By Marianna Parraga

CARACAS, Aug 17 (Reuters) - An explosion rocked Venezuela’s 187,000 barrel per day (bpd) Puerto La Cruz refinery on Tuesday, causing no injuries but forcing state oil company PDVSA to stop the facility’s alkylation unit, officials said.

The large refinery in the OPEC nation’s northeast accounts for around a sixth of PDVSA’s total refining capacity, which is about 1.3 million bpd in the South American country.

PDVSA said production at Puerto La Cruz had not been affected by the blast.

“There has been a small problem in the alkylation plant,” PDVSA’s regional head of refining, Fernando Padron, told state television. He added a “very small tower” in the facility had exploded, but that there had been no fire.

“The system is under control and all the liquids from the plant were collected. The rest of the plant is functioning well ... there was no heavy damage to property or to people.”

Alkylation units at oil refineries produce high-octane components used for blending with gasoline or aviation fuel.

A union leader confirmed no one had been hurt.

“There is still a lot of smoke around,” Eudis Girot, head of the United Federation of Oil Workers, told Reuters.

He said PDVSA workers were assessing the situation at the unit before setting a date to restart it.

In a statement, PDVSA said the emission of gases had been controlled and that local communities had not been affected.

“The regular release of the products that are processed by this installation is being maintained,” it added.

The blast is the latest in a series of accidents and scheduled maintenance stoppages in PDVSA’s refinery network that have forced Venezuela to import products this year to meet its domestic and export commitments. (Additional reporting by Caracas Newsroom; Writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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