Crude spill hits Venezuela oil port, exports unaffected

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 29, 2017 5:01 AM

By Deisy Buitrago and Marianna Parraga

CARACAS/HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA on Wednesday confirmed reports of a crude spill from a pipeline connecting its main oil-exporting complex with a tanker loading facility, but said shipments have not been affected.

PDVSA said the spill occurred late on Tuesday due to a break in the line running from a crude terminal to a single buoy mooring (SBM) near the eastern Jose port.

"PDVSA on Tuesday activated a contingency plan to address a crude leak ... A temporary staple was installed in the pipeline to stop the leak," the company said in a statement.

It added it was expeditiously cleaning up the area.

Union sources and shippers had reported the leak on Tuesday evening, but its magnitude was still unknown. There were no vessels mooring at the SBM at the time of the incident, they said.

"Operations of production and shipment of crudes from the Hugo Chavez Orinoco Belt were not compromised and continue with absolute normality," PDVSA added in the statement.

The 36-inch-diameter line can carry up to 32,000 barrels per day of crude to the SBM facility, which is used by tankers to load oil for exports and also to discharge imports of products used to dilute Venezuela's extra heavy oil.

A growing number of tankers have accumulated around Jose in recent days after unplanned maintenance work halted shipping operations at one of its three docks. The work finished during the weekend.

Upgraded and diluted crude from Venezuela's main producing region, the Orinoco Belt, is shipped from the SBM facility.

The setback comes as PDVSA deals with a shortage of gasoline that generated queues at service stations in some cities in the country last week, also creating a backlog of tankers bringing imports and others waiting to load for exports.

Since then, the company has focused on restarting units to produce fuels at three of its refineries in Venezuela and the Caribbean: El Palito, Puerto la Cruz and Isla in Curacao.

PDVSA also launched tenders to import vacuum gasoil (VGO) cargoes to feed its deep conversion units, while buying cutter stock to produce fuel oil for exports, traders said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Marianna Párraga in Houston, Alexandra Ulmer and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Venezuela; Editing by W Simon)