One person has been killed and at least 20 hurt in an explosion at the Abadan refinery in the south western Khuzestan province of Iran during a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 24 May.

The blast and fire were caused by technical problems, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. State-run Mehr news attributed the explosion to a gas leak. The refinery has seen a number of incidents in recent weeks.

Unhurt, the president went on to make a televised speech to mark the opening of the oil refinery.

Opened in 1912, Abadan is Iran’s oldest refinery and has been through several phases of rehabilitation following significant damage in the decade-long war with Iraq from 1980. The new refining units, being built in two phases, will eventually produce more than 39,000 barrels a day (b/d).

The launch of the first phase adds 26,400 b/d of capacity, taking the refinery’s gasoline production to almost 75,500 b/d, largely for domestic consumption.

Abadan Oil Refining Company plans to further expand the refinery in two phases, adding a vacuum distillation unit, atmospheric distilling unit and new gasoline unit to increase gasoline production to 110,000 b/d. Fuel oil production will also be reduced by 36 per cent.