A spectacular fire affects the PDVSA refinery in eastern Venezuela | International

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A neighbor hangs her clothes, near the facilities of the Puerto La Cruz refinery of PetrĆ³leos de Venezuela, in the state of AnzoĆ”tegui, in an archive photograph from 2021.Manaure QuinteroBloomberg

This Monday afternoon, a column of fire several meters high broke out in the waste lagoon of a PDVSA refinery in Puerto La Cruz, in AnzoƔtegui State, in eastern Venezuela. After the emergency, hundreds of people from neighboring towns evacuated the area. Videos on social networks show how they run in panic through the streets of the coastal city. The accident has occurred in the middle of a strong storm and the authorities attribute it to a lightning strike at the scene. Neighbors have reported the fall of a dark rain.

The authorities reported the deployment of more than 150 firefighters to suffocate the flames with foam and prevent the spread. By late afternoon the situation had been brought under control. ā€œFortunately, there are no reports of victims even though the fire is inside the refinery itself, we have activated the protocols, we have evacuated the operational areas and we are focused on fighting the fire. We are in full swing to confine the fire to the lagoon and then suffocate it," Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami said on state television.

This is the second major fire to occur at these oil facilities in less than a week. A cargo ship caught fire over the weekend when it was transferring fuel at the Guaraguao dock. A loading arm broke causing a spill on the ship's deck and onto the dock.

The Venezuelan oil industry is weighed down by years of mismanagement, corruption and lack of maintenance that brought production to a minimum, after the United States vetoed the sale of crude oil in 2019 as part of Washington's sanctions on the NicolƔs government. Maduro for his human rights violations. The Chavista government has launched emergency plans for the sector on several occasions and by the end of 2021 it had achieved a slight rebound in barrel production, which has decreased again in recent months and is currently around 700,000 per day.

Last week the secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Haitham Al-Ghais, was in Caracas with Maduro, who has lobby for which the price of a barrel remains around 100 dollars in the face of approaching winter in the northern hemisphere, in order to maintain the stability of the oil market, disrupted by the sanctions imposed on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine that the South American president criticized once again.

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"International investors who come from Russia, Iran, China, Kuwait, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina will have the guarantees to come to produce gas in Venezuela and to take the gas to international markets," he said from the Miraflores Palace. "The elites of Europe and the United States insist on sanctions against Russia, they insist on creating an energy crisis, which impacts the economy, trade, world stability," he added.

Despite the fact that Al-Ghais pointed out that Venezuela is key to meeting the oil requirements that are currently in demand after Russia's exit from the market, some specialists doubt that the industry can recover in the medium term and the multiplication of accidents such as those this Monday is evidence. In the second quarter of 2022, production averaged 745,000 barrels per day, 11,000 barrels less than in the first quarter. PDVSA is still far from the goal set by Maduro of pumping two million barrels by the end of the year and three million by 2023, which is why it is very difficult for it to become a supplier of crude oil and gas to Europe and the United States. in case the sanctions are lifted and its commercialization is allowed.

Venezuelan oil production is stagnant and most of it is committed to clients like China and India who pay for it at deep discounts. In his rapprochement with Iran, Maduro handed over the recovery of the industry to that country, but the improvement plans still do not show results.

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