[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA plans to complete repairs to a broken catalytic cracking unit at its REDUC refinery by March 7, the union representing workers at the plant said in a statement on Friday.
The problem at the 240,000-barrel-a-day refinery near Rio de Janeiro forced Petrobras to cut oil processing by about 7,000 cu m a day for more than 10 days.
The U-1250 unit produces gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). It had to be shut down unexpectedly on Feb 9 after two weeks of problems inside the unit tower led to lower-than-normal output and a leak of catalysts, Reuters reported on Feb 10, citing the union.
Petrobras said in a statement that the stoppage of the U-1250 unit was planned. The company has declined requests from Reuters to say how long the repairs will take.
The union says the stoppage was an emergency shutdown, the result of the company reducing maintenance in order to run its 13 principal refineries in Brazil at nearly full capacity to meet surging local demand and reduce imports.
Until the recent decline in world oil and fuel prices, Petrobras was forced by Brazil's government to sell imported fuel at below world market prices, causing large losses for the company at a time when it was making some of the world's largest corporate investments.
In the third quarter of 2014, Petrobras oil and gas output surpassed that of Exxon Mobil Corp, the world's largest investor-owned oil company. Petrobras is also the world's most indebted and least profitable major oil company.
Its share price has fallen about 60 per cent since September as a bribery and political kickback scandal engulfed the company, its executives and principal suppliers of construction and engineering services.
Although controlled by Brazil's government, most of the company's stock is owned by non-government investors and is traded on the Sao Paulo and New York stock exchanges.