TOKYO (AFX-ASIA) – A huge earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale that struck northern Japan last Friday caused a fire at a refinery owned by Idemitsu Kosan Co Ltd in the Pacific coast city of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, a company spokesman said.

No one was injured and the fire at the 30,000 kiloliter crude oil storage tank was quickly extinguished, he said, adding 19 fire engines were at the scene.

The medium-sized refinery with capacity to produce 140,000 barrels per day (b/d) was shut down as soon as the fire broke out at 4.58 am, minutes after the first quake hit wide areas of northern Japan at 4.50 am and caused power blackouts on Hokkaido island.

Idemitsu lost 30,000 kiloliters of crude oil in the fire, which hit a storage unit, but production units were not damaged.

The fire was extinguished at 12:09 in the afternoon. The refiner has yet to receive permission to resume operations from local authorities pending safety approvals, Nishida said.

“Japanese fire authorities normally require a shutdown of (production) units in case of fire, but I do not think it last be that long because the fire broke out at the crude oil storage area,” added the spokesman.

Total capacity of refineries owned by Idemitsu in Japan is 640,000 b/d, compared with overall Japanese refinery capacity of about 5 million b/d.

Idemitsu, the second largest refiner in Japan in terms of product sales volume, is a privately owned company.

Nippon Oil, the largest refiner in Japan with 1.22 million b/d capacity, also has a refinery in Hokkaido, located at Muroran City along the Pacific coast, but there has been no damage and operations have been unaffected by the fire, a company spokesman said.