The refinery outage frenzy

PDVSA’s refineries are having problems. This is good news for companies that still have operating refineries, as profits rise when there is less competition, but bad news for consumers of diesel and gasoline. Not to mention bad news for PDVSA, which needs to get all that gasoline and diesel from somewhere.

The latest from Isla in Curacao is that it won’t be back til the beginning of May. I still say that’s wishful thinking. When it went down at the beginning of March, they said it would be at least two weeks til it was fixed. Then April 1, then April 15. From the start, I have said it would be June, and I’m sticking with that. I have never been there, the people I know there have no special information, and I originally didn’t even know which piece of equipment had broken down. I just know how these things work. As soon as we knew they would have to order equipment from overseas, it was clear that it would be months.

This just bums me out. After the weekend fire at the Cardón refinery’s catalytic cracker, one of the most complex parts of the refinery, they are saying all is under control and it will be up and running in a week. They had a fire at the same damn unit less than a month earlier, at which time they got it up and running quickly. This isn’t an old broken-down unit either, this is a piece of equipment that was just rebuilt in a $650 million project that took well over a year.

Meanwhile those projects that are operating are not well maintained. For some reason Youtube is rejecting my video I shot a couple weeks ago from the bus going past the upgraders at Jose, where tarry crude is refined into something that can actually flow at room temperature. The flaring was out of control. A couple stacks had constant 5-meter orange flames illuminating the night, and another was like a dragon, exhaling a raging burst of fire every three seconds.

This is where your fuel comes from. Ride a bike!

8 thoughts on “The refinery outage frenzy

  1. Dagoberto

    A bit off topic:

    I don’t know you guys, but I find extremely cynic to have a banner against CO2 emissions at PDVSA website.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Dagoberto – note that it’s not against CO2 emissions, it’s in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, which gave a big exception to developing nations. That said, the discourse here around climate change is just incredible.

  2. Antonio

    Excellent blog BTW… I worked at the upgraders several years ago when they were operated by Conoco / Chevron, although the plant I was in was relatively new there were issues. But we shut down and fixed them, were able to predict a lot of the issues and catch them before they caught us. Does not seem to be the case now, a lot of pressure on to keep running regardless.

  3. Bois

    The whole company is in shambles. They will not spend any money to maintain their equipment. I agree with Antonio, they are running the equipment with no maintenance or preventative maintenance programs. Run it into the ground to get every last penny out of it.
    I’ve been working at Refineria Isla since the end of March and right now we are in a blackout, nobody knows if it will be a day, week, month.
    But in their defense, the power plant is run by another company.
    What was once one of the largest oil companies that commanded great respect in their industry, is now a company sinking faster than anyone can imagine. What a joke.

  4. sapitosetty Post author

    Thanks for the comments. Any time you have details you’d like to share, feel free to send them my way. Confidentiality guaranteed on this end, though you may not want to send things from your work computer if you’re concerned about privacy.

    Bois: If you discovered this website a week ago, you were an early adapter — today’s the 1-week anniversary! Thanks very much for taking part.

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