Production at Venezuela's Amuay oil refinery, which was rocked by an explosion that killed at least 42 people last month, has reached 264,000 barrels per day (bpd), Oil and Mining Minister Rafael Ramirez said.
"We have 264,000 barrels of processing and soon, in the next few days, doing all the necessary reviews and inspections, we are going to reach our operational normality," Ramirez said Tuesday at the start of an oil industry conference in the eastern city of Lecheria.
The Amuay refinery, which has the capacity to process 645,000 bpd of petroleum and is part of the Paraguana Refinery Complex, or CRP, is in "safe start" mode, Ramirez, who is also CEO of state-owned oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, said.
"We're taking a look carefully at everything, inspecting everything, so that we don't have any situations, no leaks, nothing, and what happens is that over there, in the place where the fire happened, there was a lot of line traffic," Ramirez told reporters.
The explosion at the Amuay refinery on Aug. 25 started a fire and damaged about 500 nearby buildings. The fire burned for four days and affected nine fuel tanks at the facility.
Venezuela has a 10-day fuel inventory and production at the Puerto la Cruz refinery in the eastern part of the country has been ramped up from 180,000 bpd to 195,000 bpd, the oil minister said.
Officials have not yet come up with a total cost estimate for the industrial accident, Ramirez said.
"We had nine tanks affected of the more or less 680 that are there," the minister said, adding that workers were still evaluating refinery systems, replacing valves and performing other tasks.
The government is sticking to its position that inadequate maintenance was not to blame for the blast at Amuay, Ramirez said.
"All our numbers are there," Ramirez said in response to a question about a PDVSA report that referred to a low number of scheduled maintenance shutdowns at the refinery.
Venezuela's refineries executed only 19.3 percent of the planned shutdowns in 2011, while Amuay had just two planned shutdowns, Venezuelan media reported last week, citing the PDVSA document.
"If, for some reason, this planning cannot be done as had been determined, it is deferred, but it is deferred up to a point. There is a technical committee that says you cannot have a bigger deferral than this shutdown," the oil minister said.
PDVSA's refinery shutdowns are "a permanent activity," with 56 scheduled each year, Ramirez said.
Documentation is available and "anyway, all of this will be subject to the investigation that we are doing," the oil minister said.
The accident is being investigated by the Attorney General's Office, the CICPC criminal investigations agency, the Sebin police intelligence agency and PDVSA, officials said. EFE