Refinery Fire Leads to Losses, Causes Yet Another Safety Incident
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Refinery Fire Leads to Losses, Causes Yet Another Safety Incident

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Karin Dilge By Karin Dilge | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Tue, 04/19/2022 - 11:38

According to PEMEX workers, the fire reported on Saturday at the Antonio Dovalí Jaime refinery in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, caused economic losses of around MX$100 million (US$5 million). The incident marks yet another safety incident for the state oil company.

What the NOC called a “controlled burn” resulted in 33Mb of oil going up in flames during a 24-hour long fire. Workers told the media that the fire was perhaps not controlled. Instead, PEMEX allowed it to occur, with the risk of the fire reaching other tanks since the facilities do not have adequate systems in place to combat such a blaze. The fire forced the shutdown of all 26 plants that operate within the Salina Cruz refinery.

At the Salina Cruz port, the NOC operates other high-risk facilities that have also registered incidents throughout the years, including gas leaks and crude oil spills. As the state-owned company strengthens its sovereignty plans by acquiring more refineries, industry insiders say that security should become a priority. The Salina Cruz fire is not the first one to occur, after all.

As another negative mark on PEMEX’s offshore safety record, a fire broke out recently on an offshore oil platform at the Octil field, with 15 workers having to escape. In July 2021, a fire emerged in the Gulf of Mexico following a subsea gas pipeline leak at one of PEMEX’s main production fields, Ku-Maloob-Zaap. Not long after, in August, an explosion occurred at a platform at nearby, causing a fire which killed at least five workers and injured others. 

These security issues harm President López Obrador’s mission to rescue the NOC, as investors are urging the state-owned company to increase environmental, social and governance efforts. Major stakeholders are aware that analysts deemed PEMEX’s emissions dangerous and employee insecurity to be “extreme” and argue that a solid ESG plan is essential to attract more private investment.

PEMEX ranks third among global oil corporations that pose major environmental risks, said Sylvana Beltrones Sánchez, Senator, PRI. Beltrones, a member of the government’s opposition, stressed the urgency to adapt the NOC’s internal structure to mitigate these perils, accompanied with stronger security and safety measures.

Furthermore, Scientists from The National Institute of Public Health of Mexico (INSP) estimate that in Mexico City’s metropolitan areas 12,000 people die every year due to severe lung damage caused by the pollution from the Tula Hidalgo refinery, a risk that Salina Cruz citizens may face as well.

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