UPDATE 1-Worst Petrobras strike in 20 years risks crude, fuel output
(Adds Petrobras buys gasoline, Roncador field pumping)
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO Nov 4 (Reuters) - A four-day strike at Petrobras gathered steam on Wednesday, cutting crude and natural gas output from the No. 2 South American oil producer and threatening to become the most disruptive walkout at the state-run oil company in 20 years.
On Monday, Petrobras said it had lost 273,000 barrels a day of crude output, or about 13 percent of its Brazilian output of about 2.1 million barrels a day of oil before the strike began on Sunday.
Lost output slipped to about 179,000 barrels a day on Tuesday, or 8.5 percent below pre-strike levels, output that has held steady on Wednesday a company source told Reuters, adding that the strike is having a "significant" financial impact on the company.
The cuts have already caused the biggest strike-induced hit to Petrobras' crude output since a 32-day strike in 1995 that led to lines at gas stations and military occupation of refineries. The latest strike is also likely to increase pressure on a company hobbled by a corruption scandal and struggling under $130 billion of debt, the largest in the world oil industry.
"This is serious because it is happening in the midst of Brazil's worst economic crisis in decades and in the middle of Petrobras' worst crisis ever," said Adriano Pires, head of the Brazilian Infrastructure Institute, a Rio de Janeiro Energy research company.
"It's like the unions are saying, 'Hey, Petrobras is in intensive care. Let's pull the plug!'" Pires said.
Members of Brazil's national oilworkers federation said on Wednesday that Petrobras was underestimating output losses. In a statement late Wednesday, Brazil's biggest oil union federation said production cuts are as much as a quarter of Petrobras Brazilian output, or just over 500,000 barrels a day. Continuación...