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Kuwait oil refineries halt production due to power cut

KUWAIT CITY : Kuwait 's three oil refineries, which have an output capacity of 920,000 barrels a day, halted production due to a total power outage that hit the emirate, a Kuwait National Petroleum Co. spokesman told AFP.

"The three oil refineries stopped operating gradually after the power cut (which hit) the country", said Mohammad al-Hajeri.

Shortly before Hajeri's statement, state-run Radio Kuwait , cited the energy ministry as announcing that the country had been hit by a total power blackout due to a "technical fault that is being repaired".

Hajeri said that units in the three refineries were gradually put out of operation, without reporting any incident or fire.

The refineries of Al-Ahmadi, Mina Abdullah and Shuaiba, all in the oil-rich southern region, were expected to be back in operation at least 24 hours after regaining their power supply, Hajeri said.

The blackout, the first of its kind in Kuwait in more than 13 years, started at 1300 local time (1000 GMT) due to a technical fault resulting from periodical maintenance of a main transformer.

The government however categorically denied any sabotage or terror attack.

"The blackout was the result of a technical breakdown and it has nothing to do with sabotage," Major Waleed al-Ghanim, the interior ministry spokesman, told AFP.

Energy ministry undersecretary Saud al-Zaid told Kuwait Radio that an investigation was launched to know the exact cause of the technical disorder.

A senior expert however told AFP that the feeders which supply power to the transmission network stopped working, which resulted in knocking out four of the five huge power generation and water desalination plants in Kuwait .

Zaid said later that two of the four plants were put back into operation as power supply was restored to several residential areas. He expected that electricity will be back in the oil-rich emirate at around 1500 to 1600 GMT.

Total power generation capacity in Kuwait exceeds 9,000 Mega Watts/hour while consumption reaches above 7,000 MW/hour during summer when temperatures hit 50 degrees Celcius (122 F) in this desert state.

The blackout caused traffic bottlenecks in Kuwait City and the suburbs as traffic lights stopped operating, but no major accidents were reported.

- AFP

Editorial Notes: An interesting example of the interdependence of oil and electricity. In North Korea after the Soviet collapse the reverse relationship was made evident, when lack of fuel for maintenance vehicles contribued to the blackouts. -AF

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