Blast kills two at Antwerp refinery, gasoline unit shut

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 19, 2013 1:55 PM

PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An explosion at Total's Antwerp refinery in Belgium, Europe's second-largest, killed two people, forced the evacuation of the site and caused the shutdown of a gasoline producing unit on Tuesday.

"The explosion occurred in a steam system of a gasoline producing unit," Total said in an emailed statement.

There was no fire, nor any release of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, the French oil company said.

Industry intelligence firm Genscape said the 57,500 barrel per day (bpd) gasoline hydrotreater was shut at 1402 GMT shortly after the explosion.

Total said the explosion, which occurred at 1400 GMT, had killed two employees of a subcontractor. One person earlier reported as missing has been found, a Total spokeswoman said.

"As a consequence of the explosion, a part of the installations are stopped, and the emergency plan of the refinery has been activated," Total said. "The refinery is evacuated".

Gasoline prices rose. A prolonged outage at the Total plant also could provide some support for Europe's refiners as they struggle with poor demand and heavy competition from U.S. and Asian rivals.

The movement of tankers in the port of Antwerp was not affected by the explosion, according to a port official, who dismissed earlier reports from trading sources that the traffic had been suspended.

Total is investing 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion) at the 340,000 bpd refining and petrochemical complex to boost diesel-making capacity and cut costs, it said earlier this year.

Its shares fell 1.02 percent, broadly in line with a 1.12 percent decline in the French CAC 40 blue-chip index.

($1 = 0.7394 euros)

(Reporting by Muriel Boselli in Paris, Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Ron Bousso and David Sheppard in London; Writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Jane Baird)