Kuwait refinery blast kills 3

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An explosion early Sunday at the largest
of Kuwait's three oil refineries killed
three workers and injured 49, the state-
owned oil company said.

The blast was caused by a gas leak, the
refinery's operations manager Hamza Bakhash
said. But it was not clear what had ignited
escaping gas at the Mina al-Ahmedi refinery,
located about 25 miles south of Kuwait City.

San Jose Mercury News

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), June 25, 2000


Nando Times

Explosion at oil refinery kills four in Kuwait

By OMAR HASAN, Agence France-Presse

AL-AHMADI, Kuwait (June 25, 2000 8:37 a.m. EDT

http://www.nandotimes.com) - Four oil workers were killed and almost 50 injured in a blast at Kuwait's biggest refinery on Sunday, forcing its shutdown, in the second "catastrophe" to hit the industry in a week, oil officials said.

Oil Minister Sheikh Saud Nasser al-Sabah said some units at the Al-Ahmadi refinery, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the capital, would remain closed for several months after the blast and fire caused by a leak in a gas pipeline.

The death toll has risen to four, the minister told reporters, without giving a figure for injured.

An earlier report gave three dead and 49 injured, one of them seriously.

"The damage is not small. We don't exactly know the amount of damage yet. Some units will cease operations for months, and others for weeks," said Sheikh Saud, calling the blast a "catastrophe".

But the minister said Kuwait's oil exports would not be affected, although some contracts for refined products would have to be scrapped.

"There has been coordination with KPC (Kuwait Petroleum Corp.) to supply our customers with crude oil instead of the products," he said. "Kuwaiti production will continue (at the same level)."

The charred bodies of the dead workers were recovered from the refinery, said Mohanmmad al-Tawil, an assistant to the chairman of state-run Kuwait National Petroleum Co. (KNPC).

Rescue operations were still ongoing for any missing workers, with fears that the death toll could rise. KNPC officials said they were trying to identify the dead, at least one of whom was a Kuwaiti.

Sami al-Rushaid, another KNPC official, said the Al-Ahmadi complex would stay closed for "up to 10 days" for damage assessment and repairs, but the refinery's export facilities were undamaged and domestic consumption would not be hit.

The whole refinery was closed down two years ago for full maintenance, Sheikh Sabah noted.

According to an initial assessment, an oil distillation unit with a capacity of 122,000 bpd was extensively damaged and another with 120,000 bpd capacity suffered medium damage. Al-Ahmadi's main unit of 200,000 bpd was unaffected.

The seaside refinery, built in 1948 as Kuwait's first and employs 1,450 workers, has a capacity of 450,000 bpd, half of the Gulf state's total of refined products.

Forty percent of Kuwait's oil exports are in the form of refined products, while the emirate currently has an OPEC output quota of 1.98 million barrels per day (bpd).

Hamzi Baksh, chief of operations at Al-Ahmadi, said that workers had tried in vain to seal the gas leak for more than an hour. The explosion occurred as they worked on the leak in an LPG pipeline between a gasoline unit and refining unit.

Clouds of thick black smoke billowed over the facilities several hours after the accident, which shattered windows in the administrative buildings of the refinery complex.

The fire was brought completely under control after a nine-hour battle.

Sheikh Saud has already ordered an official probe into what was called Kuwait's worst refinery disaster since the 1991 Gulf War after two technicians were killed and four others hurt in a gas leak on June 18.

The two died of suffocation from hydrogen sulfide gas that leaked at Shuaiba refinery, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Kuwait City. The labor syndicate of KNPC said it feared "laxity in safety measures" was to blame.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 25, 2000.

Nando Times

Kuwait's oil minister resigns over refinery explosion

By DIANA ELIAS, Associated Press

KUWAIT (June 26, 2000 9:13 a.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) -

Kuwait's oil minister announced Monday he had resigned over an explosion that killed four workers a day before at the largest of the country's three oil refineries.

"Although I'm not criminally responsibility ... my political responsibility drove me to put my resignation this morning before his highness the emir," Sheik Saud Nasser Al Sabah said in parliament.

Deputy Premier Sheik Sabah al Ahmed Al Sabah called on Kuwait's leader, Emir Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, to reject the resignation, saying the rest of the Cabinet had not been properly informed. Most lawmakers, though, welcomed the resignation and described it as "knightly."

The oil minister added that top oil officials, including those overseeing the state-owned Kuwait National Petroleum Co. that owns and runs Kuwait's three refineries, also had submitted their resignations.

Sunday's early morning blast, caused by a gas leak, injured 49 in addition to the four killed at the Mina al-Ahmedi refinery, located about 25 miles south of Kuwait City.

Al Sabah told reporters Sunday that damage was extensive and some units might not be operational for months.

The refinery produced gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and other fuels for export and the domestic market.

Al Sabah said foreign customers could be given crude as a substitute for refined products for which they had contracted.

Though crude would keep flowing, analyst Manouchehr Takin said the psychological impact of Kuwait's troubles would likely mean even higher fuel prices in the United States and elsewhere.

"Because of low world inventories and because prices are already high and because the oil market is already tight ... there is no room for a shortage or a cut in supply," said Takin, a senior oil analyst at the London-based Center for Global Energy Studies.

Crude exports from the port complex could resume immediately and stored products could meet domestic needs for two weeks, KNPC Managing Director Sami al-Rshaid said.

Mina al-Ahmedi employs 1,450 people and has a capacity of 444,000 barrels per day. It was built in 1948 with renovations in 1984 and 1986; Sunday's fire broke out in the old part of the facility.

The national oil company also owns and operates the Mina Abdullah refinery with a capacity of 263,000 barrels per day and the Shuaiba refinery with a capacity of around 200,000 barrels per day.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed last week to boost production by 708,000 barrels a day, but industry analysts said it would do little to help U.S. drivers. Kuwait is a member of OPEC.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 26, 2000.

Oil minister says refinery repairs could cost $324 million, take 6 months 1.29 p.m. ET (1741 GMT) June 27, 2000 KUWAIT (AP)  Repairing an oil refinery damaged in a deadly explosion last week could cost $324 million and take six months, Kuwait's oil minister said Tuesday.

Minister Sheik Saud Al Sabah announced the preliminary estimates by insurance companies after an emergency board meeting of the state's Kuwait Petroleum Corp., which owns and runs all of the country's upstream and downstream operations.

Sunday morning's explosion, which was caused by a gas leak, killed five workers and severely damaged parts of the Mina al-Ahmedi refinery.

About 50 other workers were injured, most of whom have been released from the hospital, the minister said, according to the official Kuwait News Agency.

The fire was now "totally under control,'' and has not affected oil exports, the minister told the agency.

The refinery, Kuwait's oldest and largest, was completely shut down. It had a capacity of 444,000 barrels a day, and produced gasoline, diesel, aviation and other fuels.

The minister offered his resignation, saying he felt "politically responsible'' for the accident. There was no word on whether the emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, has accepted the resignation.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 27, 2000.

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