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Gas shortage idles Venezuelan petchem complex

24 Oct 2017, 6.39 pm GMT

Gas gap idles Venezuela petchem plant: Correction

Changes propylene to polypropylene in sixth paragraph.

Caracas, 24 October (Argus) — Venezuela's shortage of natural gas has forced state-owned petrochemicals firm Pequiven to almost completely shut down the 3mn t/yr El Tablazo complex in Zulia state, according to a recent internal report obtained by Argus.

The Pequiven report on El Tablazo's operational status dated September 2017 shows that state-owned oil company PdV's failure to supply El Tablazo has cascaded across the complex.

El Tablazo's biggest operational problem is a lack of reliable gas supplies, the report says. Frequent plant equipment breakdowns, regional power outages and a critical shortage of hard currency to finance equipment and feedstock imports are also major factors in El Tablazo's operational paralysis.

El Tablazo's two olefins plants shut down on 24 July and 13 September, respectively, because of insufficient propane/ethane feedstock, the report notes. Lack of gas also forced Pequiven to shut down MVC and PVC production at about mid-year.

Pequiven's polypropylene and polyethylene units at El Tablazo, including Polinter, Propilven and Pralca, have also been forced to suspend production because of the gas shortage.

Insufficient maintenance of the over 40-year-old petrochemicals production units at El Tablazo has been a problem for over a decade, reflecting Pequiven's chronic cash flow deficit caused by the combined impact of strict government exchange controls and heavily regulated local petrochemicals prices, the report says.

A refrigeration compressor breakdown halted ammonia production on 17 April. Production has not restarted because repairs are not finished yet, a plant operator at El Tablazo told Argus.

El Tablazo's caustic soda plants also have been mostly out of service since at least end-July for unspecified repairs.

Pequiven says El Tablazo has a design output capacity of 3mn t/yr of petrochemical products including ammonia (300,000 t/yr), urea (400,000 t/yr), ethylene (635,000 t/yr), polypropylene (144,000 t/yr), caustic soda (130,000 t/yr), MVC (130,000 t/yr), PVC (120,000 t/yr), high-density polyethylene (160,000 t/yr), low-density polyethylene (80,000 t/yr), linear low-density polyethylene (180,000 t/yr) and ethylene glycol (86,000 t/yr).

Pequiven's chief executive, Ruben Avila, an army general famous locally for crashing a tank into the presidential palace in Caracas during a failed 1992 coup led by late former president Hugo Chavez, could not be reached for comment.

PdV, Pequiven´s former parent company, is mainly an oil producer, and most associated gas is flared or reinjected. Dry gas is produced by the Cardon 4 joint venture between Spain´s Repsol and Italy´s Eni at the shallow-water Perla field. But most of that gas is absorbed by PdV for its refining operations.


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