Explosion at major Pemex refinery in northern Mexico kills 1, injures 10

By Mark Walsh, AP
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Explosion at Pemex refinery kills 1 in Mexico

CADEREYTA, Mexico — An explosion at Mexico’s third-largest refinery Tuesday killed one worker and injured 10, the state-run oil company said.

The blast at the Cadereyta refinery outside the northeastern city of Monterrey was caused by a leak in a hydrogen recirculation compressor, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said in a statement.

Pemex said the injured workers were in stable condition, though two had burns over most of their bodies.

Juan Sanchez Paz, 32, an operations engineer was killed and two others suffered serious burns, Pemex said. The other eight workers had slight injuries.

“The explosion shook the windows of the houses in the town, and you could hear it everywhere,” said Ausencio Torres, 72, a retired refinery worker sitting in a plaza in the town of Cadereyta.

Soldiers guarded the entrance to the refinery, where smoke rose from an area where ambulances could be seen. Refinery workers milled around outside.

“The explosion was huge. It was very loud,” said Ulises Sosa, 32, a supervisor who works near the area where the blast occurred.

The company said two of the plant’s 32 processing modules were closed temporarily “as a preventative measure” after the blast, but that the other 30 were operating normally. Pemex said the plant’s processing capacity had been reduced from 215,000 to 200,000 barrels per day, but pledged that would not cause any fuel shortages.

The explosion comes as Mexico is trying to find ways to improve its declining refining capabilities and reduce its dependence on fuel imports.

Mexico, one of the world’s largest oil producers, has to import more than 40 percent of the gasoline it uses, a surge from just 6.9 percent 20 years ago.

Several refineries are undergoing upgrades, and Pemex is also building a new oil refinery in the central city of Tula — the first to be constructed in three decades. The country currently has six refineries.

Pemex is also considering importing crude oil for the first time in decades. Company officials say importing easier-to-process light crude will improve the efficiency of its refineries.

Associated Press Writer Istra Pacheco in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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