Fire Sets PEMEX’s Salina Cruz Refinery AblazeBy Conal Quinn | Mon, 04/18/2022 - 17:56
Local authorities reported on Saturday that a fire, which had been going for 24 hours at the Antonio Dovalí Jaime oil refinery in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, was finally brought under control. While a full investigation into the accident is yet to take place, initial reports indicate that the fire started because of a technical error in the distribution channel of a vertical tank, with a capacity of 10,000b of processed gasoline.
Scorching temperatures are also thought to have played a part in the storage tank catching fire. By Friday evening, PEMEX personnel and local firefighters believed they had the fire under control, but strong winds in the area around the Tehuantepec isthmus caused the flames to reignite. To eliminate the risk of the fire spreading further, all 28 hydrocarbon processing plants halted operation and will remain inactive until further notice as a precautionary measure. The authorities of Salina Cruz assured that everything is in order, but the area will remain on high alert in case further incidents occur. Municipal President Daniel Méndez announced that Civil Defense brigades will keep the site cordoned off.
Firefighters used chemical foam to quell the surging flames while water hoses were needed to cool the tank and prevent it from exploding. At one point, the smoke cloud was reported to have reached heights of several hundred meters. Firefighting personnel from the refinery tried to extinguish the fire themselves but were ultimately unable to do so. As Rafael Ramírez López, Director of Civil Defense at the facilities, explained, assistance was then requested from the Cadereyta and Minatitlan refineries, located in Nuevo Leon and Veracruz respectively. The Mexican Navy were called upon to transport the mechanical foam needed to put out the fire.
While no one was harmed as a result of the blaze, neighboring citizens were forced to evacuate their homes. Residents have also complained of high levels of air pollution caused by the toxins emitted from the burning fuel. PEMEX expressed its relief that no injuries were recorded due to the incident and assured the public that it will continue to work to guarantee safety and avoid such hazards going forward. Operations at the Salina Cruz site, which has the capacity to process 330Mb/d day of crude oil, have been suspended for the second time in under a year, after the site previously caught fire back in Aug. 2021.