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Cause of Dutch chemical plant blaze 'unknown'

A still of the blaze at the Royal Dutch Shell facility. Credit: ITV News

The cause of the fire and explosion that broke out at a Royal Dutch Shell chemical plant in the Netherlands late last night is still not known, according to a spokesman.

Royal Dutch Shell spokesman Thijs van Velzen said two people received minor injuries. "All the people that were present are safe," he added.

Mr Van Velzen said he did not know the cause of the fire.

Police and emergency services also said that the flames were dying down and smoke was rising straight up, but advised people near the plume to close their doors and windows.

The blaze was close to the scene of another major fire three years ago at a chemical storage facility.

More: Explosion at Dutch Shell chemical plant

No reports of injuries in Shell chemical plant blaze

A major blaze has broken out at a chemical plant operated by oil giant Shell near the Netherlands port city of Rotterdam.

Local police and fire authorities have said that nobody has been injured in the explosion or have yet been reported missing.

In this short video, reportedly of the incident earlier tonight, a fireball is clearly seen on the horizon.

More: Explosion at Dutch Shell refinery

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Explosion at Dutch Shell chemical plant

A large fire has broken out a a Shell chemical refinery in the Netherlands, according to local media.

People nearby heard two huge bangs and saw a flash of light, the reports say.

It is not yet known if there are casualties or the extent of the damage.

Images on social media show a fireball rising from the plant which is in Moerdijk, south of Rotterdam.

Shell blames 'weak industry conditions' for profit alert

Shell has blamed lower oil and gas prices and "weak industry conditions" in the processing and distributional of oil, as well as higher exploration expenses and lower volumes.

The group also said it expects hefty writedowns of 700 million dollars (£429 million) for the fourth quarter and 2.7 billion dollars (£1.7 billion) for the full year relating to its its upstream business.

These are expected to hit results even further, sending fourth quarter earnings 70% lower to around 2.2 billion dollars (£1.3 billion) and 2013 earnings 38% down to about 16.8 billion dollars (£10.3 billion).

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Government and oil companies 'too cosy'

Environmentalists have accused the Government of being too close to oil firms, following a Freedom of Information request that showed two Foreign Office employees were working for Shell.

The staff, acting as government relations advisers, have been formally seconded to the oil giant for periods of between one and two years since May 2010, with their salaries paid by Shell.

Shell said the arrangement built "trust and understanding" between Government and businesses.

Breakdown of the petrol price at UK pumps

The price of petrol at UK pumps has increased significantly since 2004, but the majority of that is down to tax.

In 2004 a litre of petrol cost, on average, 80p - 59p of which was tax. In 2012 the average price jumped to £1.36 as tax rose to 81p:

A breakdown of UK petrol prices in 2004 and 2012.
A breakdown of UK petrol prices in 2004 and 2012. Credit: ITV News

But despite the price of petrol increasing in the UK, the Office of Fair Trading found that - pre-tax - the country has some of the cheapest road fuel prices in Europe:

How the UK's petrol prices compare with the rest of Europe.
How the UK's petrol prices compare with the rest of Europe. Credit: Office of Fair Trading

OFT defends investigation after raids

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has defended its investigation in to petrol pricing saying that it lacked information:

The Office of Fair Trading carried out a call for information on UK road fuels, the findings of which were published in January of this year.

As part of this call for information, the OFT asked for evidence on whether speculation or manipulation of oil spot and futures markets or inaccurate oil or wholesale road fuel price reporting could be leading to higher pump prices.

The OFT stated these issues could potentially raise serious concerns but no credible evidence was submitted to the OFT in response to the call for information.

The European Commission has confirmed on May 14, commission officials carried out several unannounced inspections in a number of countries at the premises of companies active in and providing services to the crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels sectors.

The investigation is being conducted by and is a matter for the European Commission, and the OFT is currently assisting the commission with its inspections in the UK.

– Office of Fair Trading statement

In January the OFT found that price rises were driven by tax rises and the hike in the oil price, and said it found "very limited evidence" that retailers were not passing on drops in the wholesale price to drivers quickly enough.

MP blasts OFT for 'limp-wristed and lettuce-like' inquiry

A Conservative MP blasted an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) inquiry into petrol prices as "limp-wristed and lettuce-like" in the wake of price-fixing allegations.

Harlow MP Robert Halfon, who has campaigned for cuts to duty and greater transparency in the market, said despite the Commons unanimously calling for a thorough probe into petrol pricing, the regulator failed to spot any of the allegations currently under review.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey giving a statement in the House of Commons on petrol pricing.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey giving a statement in the House of Commons on petrol pricing. Credit: PA Wire

Mr Halfon said: "Do you not agree that what happened was the OFT carried out a limp-wristed, lettuce-like inquiry when they should have done a full 18-month inquiry into what has been going on?"

Energy Secretary Ed Davey defended the OFT as an "independent body, a strong body", which has powers to determine its own investigations.

Mr Davey made a statement updating MPs on the launch of a European Commission investigation into oil companies BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Norwegian company Statoil.

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