UPDATE 1-Argentina's YPF cuts staffing at Buenos Aires oil refinery as demand drops

(Adds comment from Raizen)

BUENOS AIRES, April 29 (Reuters) - A Buenos Aires crude oil refinery operated by Argentine state-controlled energy firm YPF is running with a minimal level of workers due to a drop in consumption and a lack of storage space amid a crash in global oil prices during the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The spokesman for YPF said the company’s Plaza Huincul Refinery, which normally produces about 28,000 barrels per day (bpd), was operating with minimum staff levels, but had not entirely halted production. A methanol refinery that was part of the complex continued to operate as normal, he added.

A return to full staff levels “will depend on how the demand for fuel evolves, which, in turn, is affected by social isolation measures,” he said, without offering details on how much current production had been impacted.

Another Argentina refinery operated by Brazilian company Raizen said it temporarily stopped production at its 93,000 bpd refinery in the town of Dock Sud on April 17, due to low demand and a lack of storage capacity.

“It is important to note that the stock currently accumulated in the tanks of our refinery and in the deposits located in other parts of the country is sufficient to supply the current demand and the needs of our clients,” Raizen said in a statement.

The refinery’s gasoline and diesel truck dispatch terminal, port terminal for loading and unloading ships, and the liquefied gas loading area would remain active, the company said.

Oil company Refinor SA suspended operations at its 25,000 bpd facility in Campo Duran in the country’s north, according to trade publication Industrial Info.

Spokespeople for the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Argentina, home to the expansive Vaca Muerta shale deposit, plans to issue a decree setting a higher local oil barrel price to protect the domestic industry from being further decimated by the collapse in global prices and slumping fuel demand due to the coronavirus, Reuters reported last week. (Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; additional reporting by Walter Bianchi; editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)