Friday, December 1, 2023

3 separate Pemex facilities suffer fires in same day

State oil company Pemex is facing renewed scrutiny of its safety record, after fires at three separate facilities on Thursday left at least eight people injured and several missing.

The first fire started around noon at the Lázaro Cárdenas Refinery, in Minatitlán, Veracruz. Pemex said in a statement that it was caused by the runoff of product onto a hot surface and was quickly put out by firefighters. Five workers were injured, but there was no damage to the plant or interruption of activities.

Four hours later, a second fire broke out just 19 kilometers away, in the drilling equipment of the Tuzandépetl Strategic Storage Plant, in Ixhuatlán del Sureste. Despite the deployment of multiple fire crews, the blaze spread to other wells in the facility and continued to burn throughout the afternoon.

After the fire was brought under control, Pemex reported that three workers were injured and five more were missing. One worker was reported dead: Family and friends of petroleum engineer Carlos Ascensión Morales confirmed Friday morning that Morales had passed away due to the accident. Personnel from the Defense Ministry guarded the entrances to the area through the night and local municipalities opened four shelters.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Pemex issued a community alert for a third fire, in the crude distillation unit at its Deer Park refinery in Texas. The blaze was quickly controlled and the extent of the damage is unclear.

The fires come at a bad moment for Pemex, ahead of its earnings report on Monday. The company is under pressure to boost productivity after more than a decade of annual losses.

It is currently the most indebted of all major oil companies, with a total debt of $105 billion at the end of September, around $8 billion of which is due this year.

Pemex has also faced several major safety scandals in recent years. Most notably, a fire at its offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021 caused five deaths and cut Mexico’s oil production by a quarter. The same year, the company drew international criticism after a large gas explosion near its offshore rig in the Bay of Campeche.

With reports from Reforma, La Jornada and Forbes México

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