Deputy PM orders high-level technical probe in Al-Ahmadi refinery blaze

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DUBAI, Jan 15, (Agencies): A fire erupted in Kuwait during maintenance work at a major oil refinery on Friday, killing two workers and critically injuring 10 others, the Kuwait National Petroleum Company said. This is the second fire to erupt at the Mina al-Ahmadi oil refinery in as little as three months. In October, the state-owned oil company reported a fire had erupted at the facility, with some workers suffering from smoke inhalation and others being treated for light burns. In this latest fire, the company said, two Asian contract workers died. Their bodies were discovered on site. Initially the company had said that 5 workers were injured in the fire, with five being treated at a nearby hospital for severe burns and another two for moderate burns. Others received treatment at an on-site clinic. The company later said that the five with severe burns were transferred to another hospital in critical condition.

In this Jan. 14 photo made available on Kuwait National Petroleum Company’s Twitter account, fire fighters try to extinguish the fire at the Mina al-Ahmadi oil refinery in Kuwait. A fire erupted during maintenance work at a major oil refinery in Kuwait on Friday, killing two workers and critically injuring 10 others, KNPC said. (AP)

The company said the fire broke out at a gas liquefaction unit that had been out of service for maintenance work. It said the fire was extinguished and that operations at the refinery were not affected because the unit damaged was already out of service. Kuwait’s Oil Minister Dr. Mohammad Al-Faris and other top executives of the state-owned corporation visited the refinery after the fire. They were seen fist-bumping members of the fire brigade and standing in front of the site of the blast for photos that were shared by the Kuwait National Petroleum Company’s Twitter account. The refinery was built to handle 25,000 barrels of oil a day to supply Kuwait’s domestic market primarily with gasoline and diesel. The facility recently underwent an expansion to reduce its emissions and boost capacity to 346,000 barrels a day.

Kuwait, a nation home to 4.1 million people, has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves. Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil and Minister of Electricity, Water and Sustainable Energy Dr. Al-Faris ordered Friday that a high-level technical probe panel be set up in order to look into the causes of the fire that broke out at the oil refinery. The panel, which should be composed of experts and specialists, has to determine whether the fire was due to negligence, and even to explore necessary mechanisms that could ensure staving off similar accidents in the future, the minister said in a press statement. He emphasized that ensuing recommendations are to be immediately submitted to him and the board chairman of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) for necessary action based on probe findings.

In a press statement, the minister explained that the committee will determine whether there has been any failure by any party and then set the necessary mechanisms to avoid such an issue in the future. It will urgently submit its recommendations to him and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Kuwait National Petroleum Corporation (KNPC) to take the necessary action based on the results of the investigation.

The KNPC firefighting teams were able to control the fire fully in record time. The fire broke out on the morning of January 14 in the gas liquefaction unit No. 32 of the company’s Mina Al-Ahmadi Refinery during the replacement of one of the valves of the unit. It has been under comprehensive maintenance work since November 2021, which will continue until February 2022. Due to the fact that the damaged unit was out of service for maintenance reasons at the time of the accident, the refinery’s operations and export operations were not affected by the fire. Also, the local marketing operations or the supply operations of the Ministry of Electricity and Water were not affected. The company will soon start work on returning the unit to its normal state. With great sadness, Dr. Al- Faris mourned the contractor’s Asian workers who died while carrying out their work.

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