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Seven PDVSA workers were detained by the Venezuelan authorities following an outage at the Cardon refinery, Reuters has reported, citing eight sources in the know.
The workers will now face terrorism charges, according to one local lawyer and human rights activist.
The 310,000-bpd Cardon refinery suffered a partial outage earlier this month at its reformer unit, which has a capacity of 45,000 bpd. The workers tried to restart the unit, the report said, but the restart failed, and this failure led to damage at one of the refinery's compressors.
"It's the same formula they use for everyone: terrorism and sabotage," one of the Reuters sources said.
Venezuela's oil infrastructure has been plagued by the results of years of mismanagement and, more recently, the effects of U.S. sanctions that have seen most foreign companies, including oilfield service providers, leave the country.
As a result, problems and outages are not infrequent, including a series of blackouts a couple of years ago that the Maduro government blamed on U.S. sabotage.
Despite these problems, Venezuela seems to have ambitious oil production growth plans. In June this year, the country's oil minister Tareck Al Assaimi told Bloomberg that PDVSA was going to increase its oil production fourfold by the end of the year, to some 2 million bpd.
A leaked document from PDVSA said that the company needed investments of $58 billion to restore its oil production to levels last seen in 1998, which would be quite hard to secure as the number of foreign companies willing to continue doing business in Venezuela inches close to zero.
Earlier this year, two of these companies—majors TotalEnergies and Equinor—said they were leaving the country and their jointly owned venture Petrocedeno, leaving PDVSA to operate it on its own. Rosneft has also sold Venezuelan operations. If the trend continues with Chinese companies, Venezuela's oil industry may well collapse.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.