|A fireman tries to douse the flames at Jamnagar. (PTI)
Oct. 25: A massive ball of fire erupted today at Reliance Industries’ Jamnagar refinery, forcing a shutdown of two of the 40 processing units in the complex and sparking fears of a cooking gas shortage.
Reliance tried to play down the seriousness of the incident. Petroleum minister Murli Deora said in Delhi that Mukesh Ambani had assured him there would be no production cuts.
But ministry officials worried about the repeat of a crisis that had erupted in October 2005 when the Jamnagar refinery went in for a partial unscheduled maintenance, causing long delays in gas cylinder refills.
Reliance is the largest supplier of cooking gas and provides about 2.4 million tonnes a year.
Petroleum secretary M.S. Srinivasan said the mishap could trigger a shortage of 1,20,000 tonnes of cooking gas.
Srinivasan ordered Indian Oil Corporation and other state-owned refiners to immediately import 1,00,000 tonnes of cooking gas to head off another crisis. He said the country had 19 to 20 days of stock.
Analysts made a quick calculation, assessing the damage to the refinery at Rs 120-150 crore, or about 1.6 per cent of last year’s net profit of Rs 9,069 crore.
Reliance said the damage had yet to be worked out.
Fire tankers were pressed into service and the blaze was brought under control in two hours, the company said.
One employee suffered 60 per cent burns and was being flown to Mumbai for treatment.
“The fire was only at one of the secondary units and other operations were not impacted,” said Reliance president (refinery) P.K. Kapil.
Company officials said they had shut two units at the refinery that produces 6,60,000 barrels a day after the fire broke out in the vacuum gas oil hydrotreater II.
The hydrotreater removes sulphur from crude and is critical for the production of higher-quality fuels.
Reliance is the only refinery in India that can process heavy, sulphur-laden crude from Africa and other regions.
The refinery is fully insured under a composite Rs 40,000-crore policy that covers Reliance’s assets in Jamnagar, Patalganga and Hazira.