Watching the World: Explosion hits Ufa refinery

Aug. 1, 2005
Bashkortostan’s oil industry could be facing big trouble after an explosion at the 130,000-b/d Novo-Ufimsk refinery.

Bashkortostan’s oil industry could be facing big trouble after an explosion at the 130,000-b/d Novo-Ufimsk refineryWithin hours, crude oil prices increased on concerns about a disruption to supply in Russia.

“A gas line exploded….We do not know the causes, and no victims have been found,” said a spokesman for Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry.The explosion occurred on July 26 near Bashkortostan’s capital Ufa in the southern Urals and “was followed by a powerful blaze,” the official said.

Bashkortostan’s oil industry is important to Russia, and the refinery is no exception.

The refinery

Novo-Ufimsk, controlled by the government of Bashkortostan, processed 2.42 million tonnes of oil (117,000 b/d) in January-May to produce 610,000 tonnes of gasoline, 810,000 tonnes of gas oil, and 410,000 tonnes of fuel oil.

The refinery is part of a refining group known as Bashneftekhim, which includes two more plants of a similar size.

The group exports its volumes mainly via the pipeline monopoly Transnefteproduct through Black Sea ports and the Baltic Sea outlet ofVentspils in Latvia. The plant’s shares fell almost 14% as news of the fire emerged.

That would suit the purposes of people eager to get their hands on the region’s oil industry or to see it collapse.

Just a week before the blast, a 20-year-old student at Bashkortostan’s state medical university was detained at an airport in Ufa while carrying an explosive device.

Police said he was carrying a device made from a jar full of a mixture of magnesium, potassium permanganate, wax, and a fuse. The man was stopped after attracting the attention of police officers by his “nervous behavior.”

He may be part of a larger network of young revolutionaries.

On July 16, Ayrat Dzhilmukhametov, a former leader of the Union of Bashkortostan Youth and now a student at the Logos-M law institute in Moscow, was charged with several crimes.

His alleged offenses include public calls for mass disorder aimed at the forcible overthrow of the leadership in Bashkortostan for political motives. He also was charged with using the media to make calls for the seizure of power by force.

Official charges

He has been officially charged under Article 280 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, “public calls to engage in extremist activities” and “similar deeds with the use of the media,” and has been banned from traveling.

Dzhilmukhametov allegedly issued a public call for mass disorder and the forcible seizure of power in the republic at rallies last spring in Ufa and Moscow, organized by the Bashkortostan republic public foundation for the development of local government.

The authorities have yet to decide on the cause of last week’s blast at the Novo-Ufimsk refinery. Meanwhile, as I said before, if you happen to be in Ufa, try to be a little more circumspect than usual (OGJ, Apr. 18, 2005, p. 28).