Pipeline Blast Halts PetroPiar

(Argus, 10.Mar.2020) — Venezuelan state-owned PdV’s PetroPiar joint venture with Chevron suspended upgrading operations following a pipeline explosion early today, three oil workers at the facility tell Argus.

The plant has since resumed partial operations and is slowly ramping back up to an unspecified level.

Sulfur and hydrogen processing units at the 190,000 b/d heavy crude upgrader were damaged in the blast, prompting the emergency release of hydrogen sulfide gas and the evacuation of all workers before 8am ET.

PetroPiar is the only one of four upgraders at PdV’s Jose terminal that is currently in operation. The plant restarted upgrading Orinoco heavy crude into Hamaca synthetic grade early this year, following several months of less complex blending.

PdV headquarters in Caracas declined to comment, but two workers at the upgrader said the facility has suspended upgrading operations until damages are assessed and repaired.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but an oil union official at Jose said PetroPiar workers lack essential safety equipment, including protective face gear.

Waiting on waivers

PdV has operational control of the integrated PetroPiar project. Chevron holds a 30pc interest and routinely declines to comment on day-to-day Venezuelan operations that are controlled by PdV.

The US major operates in Venezuela under a waiver from US sanctions. The current waiver expires on 22 April, and may not be renewed as the White House seeks to step up pressure on the Venezuelan government. Four oil services companies are also operating in Venezuela under sanctions waivers.

The US-backed political opposition, led by National Assembly head and Western-recognized interim president Juan Guaido, held protest marches in Caracas and other cities today, in an effort to reinvigorate its campaign to remove President Nicolas Maduro.

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