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Fire at Petronas' RAPID oil refinery quickly tamed

By Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A fire was brought under control early on Friday after an explosion at a Malaysian oil refinery being developed by state oil firm Petronas, which was testing its facilities ahead of planned commercial operations later this year.

RAPID, or Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development, will anchor the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) and is Petronas' biggest domestic investment, made in a 50-50 partnership with Saudi Arabia's state-owned Saudi Aramco.

The explosion and fire occurred at about 1:25 a.m. on Friday (1725 GMT on Thursday) at the plant's atmospheric residue desulphurisation unit (ARDS), which is in its commissioning stage, Petronas said in an updated statement.

Petronas said there were no fatalities caused by the explosion and fire. The fire was contained within 30 minutes, it had said earlier.

"We wish to assure members of the public that the situation is under control and there is no health related risk to this incident," the company said in its latest statement.

Police said two people were given outpatient treatment following the incident, which was attended to by five fire trucks and 30 staff from the Petronas RAPID Pengerang emergency response team.

"Teams have been set up and are currently working closely with the relevant authorities to investigate the cause of the incident," Petronas said.

Petronas started trial runs at the refinery in early 2019 and had planned to start offering some products in April.

The fire will likely set back plans for the refinery to reach commercial operations by October as several units will have to be shut for further inspection, Energy Aspects' analyst Nevyn Nah said.

Petronas did not immediately respond to an email seeking information on how the fire would affect its start-up plans.

The ARDS unit removes sulphur from fuel oil which is then passed through a residue fluid catalytic cracker (RFCC) - a secondary refining unit that upgrades residual fuels into higher quality products such as gasoline. The ARDS unit is located close to the refinery's crude distillation units.


The refinery, which will process around 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil once fully operational, is expected to come online later this year, and sell fuel to customers in Malaysia and across Southeast Asia.


(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Additional reporting by Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Editing by Richard Pullin and Tom Hogue)