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Fires under control on PDVSA facilities in Bonaire and Cardon terminal/CRP

Fire at PDVSA Bonaire oil terminal

LONDON, Sep 13, 2010

A huge blaze that ignited when lightning hit a 200,000-barrel naphtha tank on the tiny Caribbean island of Bonaire was put out on Friday after Venezuelan planes doused it with chemical foam, while on Saturday, a fire broke out on a dock used for loading tankers at Venezuela's 300,000 barrel-per-day Cardon refinery on Saturday, a source at PDVSA said, but the blaze was reported out by a PDVSA press release.

Tall flares seen from across the Bonaire caribbean island since the fire began on Wednesday were no longer visible in the morning, witnesses said, but smoke still billowed from the damaged tank at a terminal that stores 12 million barrels of oil products, Reuters reported.

"The fire is out," said Glenn Thode, Lieutenant Governor of the island that sits 50 miles off Venezuela's northern coast and is part of the Dutch Antilles.

Speaking on Friday, he said the remaining smoke came from the smoldering remains of the tank, which partially melted in the blaze.

Shipping is not expected to resume at least until the weekend from the Venezuelan-owned terminal that receives up to 25 tankers a month, as officials check for damage.

"The terminal is closed and the ships are floating offshore -- it's too deep to drop anchor," said a trader who does business at the terminal. He said four vessels were waiting to dock.

Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA uses the site to mix and ship crude and products to China and the United States. The island is a popular scuba diving destination famous for its pristine coral reefs and crystalline water.

It was not immediately clear how many shipments will be delayed by the closure of the terminal.

Thode said that several planes sent by PDVSA sprayed the burning tank with foam overnight, cooling adjacent tanks and lowering the flames.

He called for three investigations into the fire and possible damage to the island's delicate ecosystem from gas and chemicals released by the blaze. One study will be carried out by the terminal management, or PDVSA; another by the government of the Netherland Antilles; and a third possibly by the Dutch government, he said.

The fire was likely caused by an electrical storm, PDVSA said. A lightning strike was also blamed for a quickly controlled blaze at another PDVSA storage terminal on nearby Curacao, also part of the Dutch Antilles.

Oil markets factored in the fires, with no discernible price changes as a result. PDVSA officials were not available to comment.

The terminal, known as BOPEC, also stores heavy crude, gasoline, distillates and residual fuel oils.

PDVSA's Cardon oil terminal fire

Meawhile, oil tankers were not loading or unloading at Venezuela's 300,000 barrel per day Cardon refinery unit of huge 900.000 PDVSA CRP Refinery Complex on Saturday after a fire broke out at the dock, a PDVSA source said.

It was not clear if the latest fire was on the dock itself or on a ship moored there, or if it had been controlled.

PDVSA, said put out a fire at its Cardon refinery today, according to Asdrubal Chavez, the company's vice president of refining, Bloomberg reported.

A tanker was loading diesel fuel at one of the refinery's five docks when it exploded, Chavez said. PDVSA, as the company is known, closed the dock to ships while keeping the others operating, Chavez said.

The Cardon refinery, located in northwestern Venezuela, is part of the state company's PDVSA CRP Paraguana complex and can process as much as 130,000 barrels a day. Cardon had fires at its catalytic cracker unit on March 29 and April 24, according to PDVSA.

Venezuela is South America's largest oil producer and a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

PDVSA will open an investigation to determine the cause of the explosion and calculate the damage, Chavez said. There were no workers injured, he said.

Sources; Reuters/ Bloomberg



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