A massive explosion rocked a gas pipeline in eastern Venezuela Saturday afternoon, according to a report from state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), seen by Reuters.
The blast occurred at a 36-inch pipeline providing natural gas to the Pigap II gas reinjection plant in northern Monagas. PDVSA had to shutter operations at the facility to extinguish flames and evaluate damages.
Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami announced on state television Saturday evening that the incident was considered a "terrorist attack." He provided no evidence about such claims.
"This terrorist action has affected the operations center in El Tejero that serves as a gas injection plant, and, thank God, no casualties are reported from this attack," El Aissami said.
Video footage shared on Twitter shows the pipeline's initial explosion unleashed a massive column of fire into the sky.
Explosion en la planta PIGAP II de el tejero Estado Monagas. pic.twitter.com/6tnc7HUzc8— wilfredo jose febres (@wilfredofeb) March 21, 2021
#MONAGAS 🇻🇪🔴 | @MariaGMonagas reportó la explosión ocurrida el día de ayer 20 de marzo en #Monagas en la Dirección Ejecutiva de Producción Oriente. División Punta de Mata / U.P Pirital (PIGAP II). #PDVSA #Noticias24 #Venezuela pic.twitter.com/lgIUtBIjmY— Noticias24 Venezuela (@N0TICIAS24) March 21, 2021
El Aissami also said the blast was part of a series of "criminal attacks" with the intent to disrupt PDVSA operations. Again, the oil minister made accusations but did not name any group or country.
Venezuela has the world's largest crude oil reserves, but production has been crushed by economic collapse. Its production stands around 550,000 b/d in February, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey.
President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly blamed the US for organizing attacks on energy facilities in the oil-rich country.
Two months into the Biden administration, the White House continues to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela, despite Nicolás Maduro clearly being the socialist country's actual leader.
It remains to be seen if the pipeline explosion was a "terrorist" attack as Venezuelan officials have yet to present evidence - but there is concern that the Biden administration will continue to carry on former President Trump's harsh policies against Maduro.