Blast prompts Iraq refinery closure

At least one employee dead after attack sets alight facility that produces 11 million litres of petroleum a day.

    An oil refinery in the Iraqi town of Baiji has been shut down following a fire started by a bomb attack, according to the governor of Salahuddin province.

    One person was reportedly killed in the attack, which occurred at around 4:30am local time (01:30GMT) on Saturday.

    Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, quoted Abdul Qader al-Saab, deputy director of the state-owned North Oil Company, as saying that unknown gunmen equipped with silencers infiltrated the biggest refinery in the Baiji refining complex, laid IEDs [Improvised explosive devices] in several operational units and fled before detonating them.

    "[Saab] also said that the entire refinery has now closed and that a chemical engineer died from smoke inhalation and several others were injured," she said.

    The Baiji refinery was controlled for a long time by al-Qaeda fighters, who used it to finance attacks.It is located about 180km north of Baghdad.

    Iraq currently has three major refineries - Baiji in the north, Basra in the south, and Dora in south Baghdad.

    They have a combined capacity to handle 550,000 barrels per day of crude, producing refined products including 12 million litres of petrol, 15 million litres of diesel, nine million litres of heating oil and large volumes of fuel oil for power stations.

    Baiji on its own has overall capacity of 290,000 barrels but was operating at 70 per cent capacity before the attack.

    Overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since the peak of sectarian conflict in 2006-07, but attacks still occur on a
    daily basis.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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