CARACAS – As has become customary, incidents in Venezuela’s battered oil industry keep happening almost every day amid its worst fuel crisis ever. This time a new explosion was registered at the Amuay refinery, part of Falcón state’s Paraguaná Refinery Complex or CRP, as reported by local daily La Mañana on Tuesday.
The newspaper, also based in Falcón, said that the incident was triggered by an “event” in the refinery’s alkylation unit from plant No.4 and that it is unknown whether or not there are injured workers as a result and the extent of the damages caused by it.
However, Luis Stefanelli warned about “serious infrastructure damages” in his Twitter account on Tuesday. The opposition lawmaker said that the explosion would have destroyed the refinery’s vacuum distillation unit and that there is a presence of hydrofluoric acid, a highly irritating and corrosive substance, in the surrounding area for which its use must be supervised through very strict security protocols.
The state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) has been making gradual efforts to ramp up gasoline production amid the severe fuel shortages the country is experiencing, albeit the outcome has been an unstable production located between 20,000 and 25,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Some analysts and industry experts agree that a maximum of 10% of the country’s refineries installed capacity (about 1.3 million bpd) may be recovered, in large part due to the poor conditions of facilities and the loss of highly skilled workers.
Crude oil processing in national refineries dropped 85.2% during the five years between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2020, from an average 915,000 bpd to about 135,000 bpd, an amount that equals 10% of the installed capacity.
The 645,000 bpd Amuay refinery has registered several incidents over the past few years, with two propane and butane tanks that resulted in a huge blast, killing at least 26 people and halting production for two days, in August 2012 being the most outstanding.
The CRP is currently Venezuela’s largest and the world’s third-largest refinery complex.