Argentine oil output hit by storage plant blockade

BUENOS AIRES, June 23 (Reuters) – A blockade by oil workers at a crude storage plant in southern Argentina is preventing the normalization of output despite teachers’ decision to lift weeks-old roadblocks, industry sources said on Thursday.

The striking teachers have lifted their pickets over the last week, but energy sector workers are still blocking access to a key storage facility in the Las Heras district.

That means some fields have not been able to fully resume operations, because of inadequate storage capacity, an industry source said on condition of anonymity.

“The Las Heras plant is still not operating … which makes production difficult,” said the source. The Las Heras plant is owned by YPF (YPFD.BA: Quote), the local subsidiary of Spain’s Repsol (REP.MC: Quote).

Much of the crude produced in Santa Cruz is stored at the facility, meaning oil companies have to cut production once they exceed in-house storage limits.

“The region’s governor (Daniel Peralta) is in Las Heras but he still hasn’t met with us. We’re waiting for him,” said oil trade union leader Fabian Zuniga, adding that Santa Cruz oil workers are demanding the payment of overdue salaries.

Inflation in Argentina has been running at an annual rate of more than 20 percent, according to private forecasts, fueling labor unrest. The energy sector has been badly hit by the protests.

The Argentine unit of Chinese energy firm Sinopec Corp (SNP.N: Quote).(0386.HK: Quote)(600028.SS: Quote) and Pan American Energy are among the companies affected by the unrest. [ID:nN13142264]

Argentina’s crude output fell by 19.1 percent in April from the same month last year to an average 79,836 cubic meters per day, according to the latest industry data.

Industry sources said the Santa Cruz protests are largely to blame for the sharp decrease in total crude oil output.

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