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More Fires At Iran’s Oil and Gas Facilities

By Dan Tsubouchi

There is something strange going on in Iran’s oil and gas facilities.  It may not find its way into oil prices right now, but it is something to watch. This week, there have been two more fires – one at the South Pars natural gas complex, and another at the Bu Ali Sina petrochemical refinery.  It does not sound like there is ongoing major damage.  Tasnin (a private news agency in Iran) reported that “Firefighters brought a fire at a refinery in Iran’s giant South Pars gas field under control on Tuesday, an official announced, saying the blaze has not caused any casualties.  Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency, Qassem Qaedi, crisis management coordinator in the southern province of Busheher, said firefighters have brought the fire under control.  It had broken out at a waste storage tank in the 6th refinery unit of South Pars gas field’s phases 15 and 16.  The firefighting operation is in good progress, he added, predicting that the blaze would be extinguished shortly.  The fire poses no threat to the other facilities in the complex, as other refineries are operating normally, he assured.”  [LINK] Tasnin also reported on the BU Ali Sina petrochemical refinery fire, which is southwest of the city of Bandar Mahshahr.  There are very few reports on this and no word if there is any major damage.  What is interesting is that this petrochemical facility also caught fire in early July.

These aren’t the first fires at Iran’s oil and gas facilities.  Our Aug 7, 2016 Energy Tidbits had the following item.  “Oil & Natural Gas – A bad week for Iran’s oil and gas infrastructure operations. There were multiple incidents of fires/collisions regarding Iran’s oil and gas operations that didn’t seem to get much attention in the west.  Shana (the news agency for Iran’s oil ministry) had dozens of very small briefs, but the best summary briefs came from another Iran news site PressTV.  (i) “Iran contains massive gas pipeline fire” was a story ran Saturday morning Iran time and noted  a “massive fire on a 42-inch gas pipeline in southern Iran”, “a fire at Iran’s largest oil refinery in Abadan on Thursday was contained with no serious damage”, “Another fire broke out last week at the Bistoon petrochemical plant in Kermanshah in western Iran”, and “ the worst blaze, however, hit Bu Ali Sina petrochemical refinery complex in the southwest city of Bandar Mahshahr last month, seriously damaging its paraxylene unit”.  [LINK]    

No confirmation that Cyber is responsible, but Iran noted this week they found malware in some of their Petrochemical plants systems.   Our Aug 14, 2016 noted that Iran didn’t believe cyber terrorism was responsible for the July/Aug fires, but said they would at least check out the cyber terrorism angle.  However, Reuters reported that Iran’s oil minister “said last week that most of the fires in petrochemical plants happened because the privatised petrochemical companies have cut their budgets for health and safety inspections.”

Iran is an experienced oil and gas operating country, but it just seems there are too many fires to be coincidental.   This doesn’t seem to be on any radar screens right now.  No one really cares.  Cyber terrorism is an item feared all around the world for oil and gas plants, pipelines, and electricity grids.   The problem is that I would never expect Iran to admit it was a cyber issue as the implications are probably too great.   If the fires are all because of the budget cuts for health and safety, then it will stay an Iran problem.  If its some group responsible, it becomes a much bigger problem.