Image credits: Twitter, PEMEX
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News Article

Earthquake Sees History Repeated at PEMEX’s Salina Cruz Refinery

By Peter Appleby | Tue, 06/23/2020 - 18:36

In a call back to the devastating earthquake of Sept. 19, 2017, today’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck La Crucecita in the Mexican state of Oaxaca at around 10.30 a.m. this morning caused a fire at the Salinas Cruz refinery, also in Oaxaca state, which required help from the fire services to be put out, reports El Economista.

Reports suggest that the shaking of the earthquake, which was 0.4 grades higher on the Richter scale than the 2017 earthquake in Puebla that claimed the lives of 370 people nationwide, caused a spark in one of the turbos, thus leading to the fire.

At 1 p.m., the national oil company took to Twitter to explain that the situation at the country’s largest refinery had been resolved. One worker had been injured during the fire and was being treated by a doctor, said PEMEX. It also included a photo of the fire and efforts being made to put it out.

“Due to an earthquake with an epicenter on the coast of Oaxaca, the Antonio Dovalí Jaime refinery in Salina Cruz was put on a safe stop due to a firing record in the turbo generators and boiler, which caused an outbreak of fire that was immediately quelled,” read the tweet.

The fire and the temporary suspension of works at the refinery today recalls the damage done to that same facility by the 2017 earthquake. In 2017, activity at the refinery was suspended for four weeks due to the heavy damage incurred to two turbo generators that were part of the electronics system. No damage to the structures of the refinery was reported.

The National Refining System (SNR) has underperformed badly in recent years, with Rystad Energy’s Schreiner Parker telling Mexico Business News last month that the system is “operating at under 40 percent capacity”.

The Salina Cruz refinery, constructed in 1979, is one of six current refineries that make up the country’s SNR. The Dos Bocas refinery in Tabasco will bring the total to seven when completed. The refinery, along with the others in the SNR, are currently undergoing maintenance and upgrade works as part of the administration’s push for Mexican energy sovereignty.

According to the government’s maintenance plan for the refineries, Salina Cruz’s capacity had declined “as a result of accidents and incidents.” The original plan was to increase the Salina Cruz capacity to 70 percent by December 2019, which was missed. As of April 2020, the refinery’s capacity was 130.97Mboe/d, up from 110Mboe/d in March.

Photo by:   Twitter, PEMEX
Peter Appleby Peter Appleby Journalist and Industry Analyst