A large tower at the Amuay refinery on Venezuela’s northern Carribbean coast collapsed Tuesday during what President Nicolas Maduro described as a “terrorist attack.”
During a nationally televised news conference Madero provided little additional information other than describing the weapon used as “large and powerful.”
The Amuay refinery is one of three refineries bundled together to establish the Paraguana Refinery Complex, the world’s third largest refinery complex following Jamnagar Refinery in India and the Ulsan Refinery in South Korea.
Attackers targeted Amuay’s Plant 4 that produces VGO, also known as vacuum gasoil. VGO is the lightest of the two outputs from a refinery’s vacuum distillation tower and, using a cracking unit, is upgraded into gasoline and other products.
As of 2012, Paraguana refined 953,000 barrels of crude per day and accounts for 71 percent of the refining capacity of Venezuela. In Venezuela’s depressed economy, present production is significantly below that amount.
Officials with Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) report that the targeted plant was scheduled for turnaround in preparation to increase its production capacity.
Opposition politicians have alleged rather than a terrorist attack, the explosion at Amuay resulted from a hydrofluoric acid leak. However, officials with PDVSA claim to have physical evidence of either a missile or drone attack.
In 2012, leaking propane and butane ignited at the Amuay refinery, killing 48 people and injuring 151 others. No operating units were damaged in the blast but three storage tanks burned.
The fire took three days to extinguish.