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Petrobras refinery explosion seriously injures three workers

20 January 2015

Three employees of state-owned oil giant Petrobras were hurt on January 19 in an explosion at a refinery near the northern city of Salvador. Three workers using an electric rotary sander on the inside of a hydrogen tank triggered the blast, according to reports. The company said there was no environmental damage and market supply will not be affected by the incident.

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Stock image

Petrobras, currently mired in a corruption scandal involving multimillion kickbacks for politicians, said it was investigating the cause of the explosion at the Landulpho Alves Refinery (RLAM), the company’s oldest.

One worker's body was 75% burned while another two suffered less serious burns in the blast. "The injured were quickly tended to by refinery medical personnel and taken to hospital. The company is providing the necessary assistance," Petrobras said in a statement.

The RLAM refinery has capacity for 323,000 barrels a day of oil derivatives including diesel, gasoline, kerosene, asphalt and lubricants. It chiefly supplies north-eastern Brazil although some products are exported to the United States and Argentina.

Petrobras refines 2.1 million barrels of oil a day across 17 plants, which is insufficient to satisfy domestic demand. The company is looking to increase capacity to 3.9 million barrels a day by 2030.

The corruption scandal, which surfaced last year, has affected Petrobras' share price and reputation as it attempts to rally support for further development of huge oil deposits lying deep beneath layers of salt off Brazil’s Atlantic coast.

The explosion at Brazil's second-largest refinery on Sunday is the second serious accident in a week at the plant. On January 14, RLAM suffered a fire in its paraffin unit after a faulty valve at the plant leaked kerosene. No one was injured in that event.

Workers in the SindipetroBA union at RLAM said they would stage a one-day wildcat strike in protest at safety shortcomings. In interviews with local news media, union officials said the 50% fall in crude prices since June could affect future maintenance and upgrade work at the plant.

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