Idled Venezuelan floating oil facility under repairs amid environmental concerns - source

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(Reuters) - An idled floating oil facility off Venezuela’s eastern coast is undergoing repairs, according to a person familiar with the matter, as images showing the crude-laden vessel at an incline have raised concerns about possible environmental hazards.

The Nabarima floating storage and offloading (FSO) facility is operated by the Petrosucre joint venture between Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela [PDVSA.UL] and Italy’s Eni. Petrosucre suspended output shortly after Washington sanctioned PDVSA in January 2019.

About 1.3 million barrels of Corocoro crude have remained stuck on the vessel, which is located in the Paria Gulf between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. The sanctions have deprived Petrosucre of its former main crude buyer, PDVSA’s U.S.-based refining subsidiary Citgo Petroleum Corp [PDVSAC.UL].

Gary Aboud, the corporate secretary of Trinidadian environmental group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, said he was concerned about a potential oil spill, which would devastate the livelihoods of the country’s fishermen.

“If this thing flips we will all pay the consequences for decades to come,” Aboud said in a Friday telephone interview. “This should be red alert.”

A crew is currently replacing the vessel’s valves, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The source said the vessel is leaning to one side in order to facilitate the repairs.

It was not clear whether the crew was hired by Petrosucre or directly by Eni, which has a 26% stake in the venture. PDVSA owns the remaining 74%.

PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment. The company in September said the facility was in “satisfactory” condition.

An Eni spokesperson said on Friday that the company was seeking to offload crude from the vessel, and had requested a “green light” from the United States government “in order to prevent any sanctions risk.”

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Luc Cohen in New York, Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes in Milan; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Nick Zieminski