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07KUWAIT240 2007-02-19 13:22:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kuwait
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1. (SBU) On February 18, all three of Kuwait's refineries
temporarily shut down after an electrical substation
unexpectedly ceased to provide power between approximately 10
a.m. and 11 a.m. local time (0700-0800 GMT). The power
failure affected the entire Shuaiba industrial area which, in
addition to the refineries, also includes major petrochemical
facilities, Kuwait's largest commercial port, and the Shuaiba
Naval Base (which serves as the U.S. military's sea port of
debarkation). Asa'ad Al-Saad, Director of Operations for the
Ahmadi refinery - the largest of the three - told Econoff
that preliminary reports indicate that the failure at the
substation was the result of a "miscommunication" between
personnel in the Ministry of Electricity and Water's National
Control Center and operators carrying out routine maintenance
at the substation in question. There were no reported
injuries and no/no indication that terrorism or sabotage was

2. (SBU) Al-Saad explained that the refineries are designed
to draw power from an alternate source if the primary power
source fails, but in this case, the alternate power supply
was slow to come online. Consequently, he said, the refinery
operators used installed emergency power to safely shutdown
all three refineries without incident and are now in the
process of restoring them to normal operating capacity. He
added that although the failure (and the subsequent time
required to return operation levels to normal) would
effectively mean the loss of 1 to 1.5 days of refinery
production, there should be no effect on exports of refined
products since the Kuwait National Petroleum Company's ample
reserves would compensate for the lost production. (Note:
The three refineries have a combined capacity of 915,000
barrels per day, 80 percent of which is for export. End
note.) The Ministry of Electricity and Water, he said, has
initiated a formal investigation into the incident.

3. (SBU) Comment: Kuwait's refinery operations were also
impacted by fires at the Shuaiba refinery in November 2006
(reftel) and January 2007, both attributed to equipment
failures. In the present case, the disruption appears to be
the result of operator error in the Ministry of Electricity
and Water rather than any problem with the material condition
of the aging refineries.

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