Several injured in three separate fires at Pemex oil facilities

Amy Stillman, Bloomberg February 24, 2023

(Bloomberg) – Three separate fires at Petroleos Mexicanos facilities on Thursday left at least eight people injured and several missing, putting the Mexican state oil company’s safety record under scrutiny ahead of its earnings call on Monday.

Pemex said at least five people were missing and three were hospitalized after a fire broke out at a storage facility in Ixhuatlan, Veracruz, on Thursday. A few hours later, it reported that another blaze at the combined Maya unit of its 285,000-barrel-a-day Minatitlan refinery in Veracruz injured five workers. The same day, Pemex issued a community alert noting that there was a fire at one of its units in the Deer Park refinery in Texas.

The fire at the Minatitlan refinery was controlled quickly, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in a press conference Friday morning, while the fire at the Ixhuatlan storage facility is yet to be extinguished. “In the case of Ixhuatlan, it will take more time because it occurred at an oil deposit,” he said. The blast at Ixhuatlan sent huge clouds of smoke into the sky, pictures and videos on Twitter show.

While Pemex has said that operations at its Minatitlan and Deer Park refineries are back to normal, the series of incidents has put Pemex’s environment, social and governance (ESG) record under a spotlight during an already rocky start to the year for the company.

Pemex is under pressure to improve its oil production after it reported another year of declines, and to boost refinery output to meet a nationalist goal of making Mexico self-sufficient in energy generation. The company has the most debt of any oil major, at $105 billion by the end of September, and is searching for funds to repay about $8 billion in debt due this year.

Pemex’s safety issues have attracted international attention. In 2021, a huge gas explosion near its offshore oil platform — dubbed the “eye of fire”— sparked criticism from activists and politicians. Another offshore platform accident that year resulted in five deaths and Pemex was forced to cut output by a quarter.

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