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Japan earthquake hits local refineries

Japan's energy infrastructure, including oil supplies, has been severely affected by the massive earthquake on 11 March.

The quake, measuring 8.9 magnitude, the largest ever to hit the Japanese island, was followed by tsunami waves which inundated much of the country's Northern coast, taking a rising toll of lives and causing devastation to the area.

The combination of earthquake and water caused significant damage to much of Japan's power infrastructure including oil refineries and fossil-fuelled and nuclear power generating plants.

Oil refineries in the area were shut down as a precaution, although some, including the Cosmo Oil plant, 40km east of Tokyo, were damaged by fires from ruptured storage tanks. The 220,000b/d plant continued to burn three days after the earthquake.  In total, the shutdowns, which also included Nippon Oil & Energy's Sendai, Kashima and Negishi operations, account for some 20% of Japan's total 4.6mb/d output.

The direct impact on the refineries, as well as massive transport infrastructure damage, has already started to cause fuel shortages, with long queues forming at gasoline stations in Tokyo and other major cities.

Of greater concern was the continued instability of the nuclear power plants in the North of the country, with a number of the reactors and their cooling systems being damaged and the continued possibility of partial melt-down in at least one plant.  Nuclear generation provides about 30% of Japan's total power output and planned power-cuts were already being implemented across the country.

Oil producers in other parts of Asia including ExxonMobil in Russia's Sakhalin region Petro China and China Petroleum and Chemical have all reported 'business as usual' operations will continue.

Meanwhile car maker Honda suspended production at six of its major factories until 20 March.  The company also donated ¥300m ($3.6m) to aid relief efforts.  Toyota Motor Corporation, also donated the same sum to relief efforts and suspended all production, with its Tohoku plant directly caught up in the devastation.

Tags: Asia, Environment, Japan, Lubes news

Published 14th March, 2011

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