One person was killed and one injured in a large explosion at one of the production units of Syria’s largest refinery, Banias, in the Tartous Governorate near the Mediterranean coast during maintenance operations, Syria’s oil minister Ali Ghanem said on Thursday.
Ghanem, quoted by state television, reported the fatality and the injury of an engineer in the blast while welding of one of the tanks at the refinery.
He did not furnish any further details on the extent of the damage on the refinery, which has the capacity to process over 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude.
The explosion came following remarks made by U.S. President Donald Trump who vowed not to allow a "reconstituted" Daesh to take over oil fields in northern Syria.
The oil fields have been at the center of attention following Trump's withdrawal of American forces from northeastern Syria. Trump has since backpedaled on the full withdrawal he announced, acknowledging that some troops would stay in the region "to secure the oil."
Banias, along with the country's only other refinery, the Homs refinery, cover a significant part of Syrian demand for diesel, fuel for heating, gasoline and other petroleum products.
Prior to the 2011 uprising against the Syrian government, Syria produced 385,000 (bpd) of crude oil, of which about 235,000 bpd was processed through the Homs and Banias refineries to cover part of the local demand for petroleum products, while the remainder was exported.
During Syria's nine-year war, the government lost control of key oil fields, in a stretch east of the Euphrates River in Deir al-Zor, forcing it to resort to importing hydrocarbons.
Some crude and products have been imported from Iran and Russia during the war but western sanctions on Syrian oil shipments and the U.S.' punitive measures against Iran have complicated imports to cover shortfalls.
By Busranur Begcecanli