Pemex Suffers 3 Fires in One Day, but There May Be a Simple Explanation

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Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, had a rough Thursday. According to Reuters, three facilities that the company owns were set on fire — one in Texas and two in Mexico. While there are still unknowns, the wire service provides updates that provide details.

According to people familiar with the plant’s operations, a Thursday night fire broke out at Pemex’s Deer Park, Texas refinery. It was caused by a crude distillation unit.

Sources did not know which Deer Park CDUs had been set on fire. The plant is equipped with a 270,000-bpd CDU and a 70,000-bpd CDU that break down crude oil into feedstocks to all other refineries.

Sources said that Pemex was assessing Friday the damage done to the refinery by the fire.

On Thursday, the Deer Park fire was among three that struck Pemex facilities in Mexico as well as the United States.

Five people were missing in a fire at a storage facility in Veracruz in Mexico. Three people were also taken to hospital. A separate fire at the Minatitlan refinery in Veracruz was also under control. It had injures five people.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the train derailment in East Palestine (Ohio) and other recent industrial accidents/spills were conspiratorial.

There are a few simple explanations, however, that don’t require you to wear a tin foil cap. This is not a new phenomenon for Pemex. Nick Arama, my colleague, wrote in July 2021 about an incredible sight in the Gulf of Mexico. It was an “eye of fire”, a phenomenon that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, near the Yucatan peninsula. This, it turned out to be, was due to a terrible cause.

Arama wrote:

A ruptured pipeline off the Yucatan peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico caused massive water damage and a fire on Friday. Amazing images of a “eye of fire” appearing in the water near an oil platform have made the incident viral. It looked almost like moltenlava. The underwater pipeline connecting to the platform at Pemex’s Ku Maloob Zaap oil plant was where the fire started.

As Arama shared, it appears that Pemex has a poor safety record.

According to Reuters, Pemex has a history of “major industrial accident at its facilities,” over the years.

However, another explanation could exist: authorities in 2010 discovered that thieves tried to steal oil in an incident involving Pemex.

Responding to the explosion of an oil pipeline in San Martin Texmelucan (Mexico), Sunday, December 19, 2010, firefighters extend a hose along the street. Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (or Pemex), exploded when thieves tried to steal oil early Sunday. It killed at least 27 people and injured 52 others.

CNN reported that the attempted theft might have been connected to powerful drug cartels in an update.

According to Laura Gurza (coordinator for civil protection in Puebla), the cause of Sunday’s blast in San Martin Texmelucan in Puebla state was still under investigation. However, preliminary reports suggested that the illegal extraction oil from the pipe.

Pemex has had oil theft as a problem since President Felipe Calderon’s election. Washington Post investigations revealed that drug cartels were diversifying into other areas including oil theft. This was more than $1B in just two years.

It is not yet clear what caused these fires. We will keep you informed.