By Karina Grazina
BUENOS AIRES, April 9 (Reuters) - A damaged topping unit inside Argentina’s largest refinery complex could take another 30 to 45 days to get back on line after a fire last week, YPF Chief Executive Miguel Galuccio said on Tuesday.
A week ago flash floods sparked a fire inside YPF’s La Plata refinery, which had capacity of 28,500 cubic meters of crude per day. The blaze severely damaged a coke oven and will force the state-controlled company to boost fuel imports.
The refinery is currently processing 16,000 cubic meters per day of crude after reopening topping unit D on Tuesday.
Once the damaged topping unit C is back on line, within 45 days, refining capacity will reach 24,000 cubic meters a day.
“The difference between 24,000 and 28,500 is the deficit that we have because of the loss of coke oven A,” Galuccio said.
He said YPF aimed to speed up construction of a new, $800 million coke oven, which has been approved by the company’s board of directors.
“Part of the equipment was already purchased ... but of course today we need to accelerate the construction and operation of this coke oven, so therefore we’re looking at how aggressive we can be (on this),” Galuccio said.
YPF was importing fuel that represented about 10 percent of what the company produced itself, and Galuccio said that ratio could increase to 15 to 16 percent due to slowed output at the La Plata refinery.
Argentina’s government renationalized YPF last year to try to reverse a long decline in natural gas and oil output. The company wants to boost oil and natural gas production 32 percent by the end of 2017.