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Fire shuts down second Saudi refinery

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 5 -- Fire has shut down a Saudi Arabian refinery, according to a statement by Saudi Aramco Lubricating Oil Refining Co. (Luberef). It is the second fire-related accident at an Aramco facility in a month.

Luberef said the fire broke out Dec. 1 at one of its refineries south of Jiddah but was put out quickly with no casualties. It did not mention which of its two refineries was closed.

Luberef operates refineries in Jeddah and Yanbu for the production of lubricating base oils. The combined design capacity of Luberef's two refineries is 550,000 tonnes/year.

In the statement, Luberef Chief Executive Omar Bazuhair said the fire would not affect the company's supplies, and the refinery would be reopened "within a short period of time after carrying out some tests on the products."

Bazuhair said the fire started in a storage tank when a malfunctioning cooling fan ignited a propane leak.

In an earlier accident, 28 people were killed and another 10 injured on Nov. 18 when an explosion ignited a fire along the Haradh-'Uthmaniyah gas pipeline in Saudi Arabia's Eastern province. Saudi authorities ruled out any terrorist connection with the accident (OGJ Online, Nov. 19, 2007).

In late November, the Saudi government reported that it had preempted a terrorist attack on its oil facilities in the eastern region of the country with the arrest of eight suspects said to be linked to the Al Qaeda terrorist organization (OGJ Online, Nov. 29, 2007).

Luberef was founded in 1976 as a joint venture of Saudi Aramco 70% and ExxonMobil 30%. In early November, Saudi Aramco said Jadwa Investment Co. had reached an agreement to acquire ExxonMobil's 30% stake in Luberef.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.


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