Mexico evacuates Pacific oil port, refinery safe

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 9:57 AM
Mexico evacuates Pacific oil port, refinery safe

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's state-run oil company Pemex evacuated 300 workers from its only oil port on the Pacific coast on Friday after a tsunami warning rippled down Latin America following a massive earthquake in Japan.

The Salina Cruz port in the southern state of Oaxaca does not export crude outside of Mexico and only ships oil products, like gasoline, to the domestic market.

Authorities closed ports along Mexico's western coast as a precautionary measure, although the first waves to hit land were smaller than expected.

Pemex reported no problems at its coastal oil operations, including the company's largest refinery, Antonio Dovali Jaime, a company spokesman, told Reuters. The refinery, which has a capacity of 330,000 barrels a day but only produces around 270,000 barrels of oil products, lies just 2 miles from the coast near Salina Cruz.

"The evacuation is just at the port. The refinery is (operating) normally," the spokesman said.

Salina Cruz shipped 88 million barrels of oil products across Mexico last year and 15 million barrels in the first two months of this year. Five oil tankers were stuck there until conditions improve, the Pemex spokesman said.

At Mexico's busiest, centrally located port of Manzanillo, two container ships decided not to dock because of the high-wave warnings and two other ships stayed put to wait out the tsunami alert, a ports spokesman said.

Mexico's mining chamber had no reports that metal shipments were disrupted.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Adriana Barrera)