Siemens Denies Supplying Compressors for Damaged Iran Refinery

Siemens AG, Germany’s largest engineering company, denied that it supplied compressors for the Phase III unit of Iran’s Abadan refinery where a blast two days ago killed as many as four people and wounded some 25.

“Siemens has not sold any compressor to Abadan refinery Phase III,” Alexander Becker, a spokesman with the Munich-based company, said in an e-mailed statement today.

The May 24 blast and subsequent fire hit one of the two main compressors of the refinery, the Tehran-based Arman newspaper said today. The system, used to liquefy gas, wasn’t ready to be operated, it said, citing unidentified officials.

The newspaper said the compressors for this unit were purchased from Siemens, which declined to send experts to Iran to operate the machine for the start-up, citing restrictions related to international sanctions. The report cited an unidentified National Iranian Oil Refining & Distribution Co. official. Iranian personnel in charge of operating the compressors were under pressure to proceed with the project despite concerns about an accident, the newspaper said.

The explosion took place during the inauguration ceremony of the new wing at the refinery in southern Iran, an event intended to underscore the nation’s self-sufficiency in producing gasoline. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was present for the occasion.

‘Unreasonable Request’

The accident was the result of an “unreasonable request” to open the refinery on May 24, the state-run Mehr news agency said, citing remarks by Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani in parliament yesterday.

The government wanted to open the unit at Abadan in the southwestern Khuzestan province to coincide with the anniversary of Iran’s liberation of Khorramshahr, a city in the province that was captured by Iraqi forces during the 1980s war between the two countries, Mehr said in a report yesterday. The news agency cited Ali Mousavi, a parliamentary deputy representing the city of Abadan, as saying experts had conducted tests and warned about the possibility of an accident.

Officials in the Iranian president’s office for media affairs and the public relations department of the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Co. couldn’t immediately be reached by phone. Thursday is the start of Iran’s weekend.

Iran, which is constrained by sanctions imposed by the United Nations, U.S. and European Union over its efforts to develop its nuclear program, is seeking to become self-sufficient in gasoline production by expanding its refineries and cutting domestic fuel use. The U.S. and EU say Iran’s nuclear program masks an effort to develop nuclear weapons, an allegation it denies.

U.S. sanctions have cut the flow of fuel into Iran, formerly the largest market for gasoline imports in the Gulf, and forced the country to boost its motor fuel production.