Venezuela takes heavy oil upgrader offline after fire

By KEJAL VYAS

CARACAS -- A fire at the 180,000 bpd Petrocedeno heavy oil upgrader forced workers to take the facility's distillation unit offline Tuesday, a regional union official said.

The fire broke out at the plant due to a gas leak from a pipeline that leads to the distillation unit, Jose Bodas, secretary general of the oil workers union, said.

The fire was controlled but it was not immediately known how long the unit would be kept halted, said Mr. Bodas, noting that an investigation needed to be conducted to evaluate damage as well as the cause of the leak. No workers were injured in the accident, he added.

A spokesman at Petroleos de Venezuela, the majority owner of Petrocedeno with a 60% stake, declined comment.

Total controls around 30% of the plant, while Statoil has a stake of around 9.7%.

Petrocedeno is part of a network of upgraders Venezuela needs to convert its tar like heavy crude into lighter oil. The plants are key for the South American country's goal to sharply raise crude output from its massive Orinoco heavy oil belt over the next several years.

Dow Jones Newswires

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