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PdV refinery halted on crippled CDU

09 May 2017 21:13 (+01:00 GMT)
PdV refinery halted on crippled CDU

Caracas, 9 May (Argus) — Venezuelan state-owned PdV's 190,000 b/d Puerto La Cruz refinery shut down completely last week after its only operational crude processing unit broke down, a senior FUTPV oil union official tells Argus.

The union´s national secretary Jose Bodas said the refinery's atmospheric distillation unit 1 (DA-1) was processing up to 75,000 b/d of crude when it suffered an unspecified failure last week.

The refinery was operating at about 39pc of its 190,000 b/d nameplate capacity before the unit failed because other key units are out of service for repairs, including the hydro-processing complex. Support services including power, steam and water are also less than 50pc operational, Bodas said.

The outage aggravates Venezuela´s severe fuel deficit at a time when the oil-based economy is already nearly paralyzed by widespread protests and violent clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces.

Even when the Puerto La Cruz refinery was operating with the sole processing unit, operations were impeded back in March when PdV redirected Mesa 30 light crude supplies away from the refinery for export instead to Cuba, Bodas said.

PdV resumed light crude exports to Havana in March after an eight-month suspension that the company justified last October by asserting that the light crude was needed domestically to blend with extra heavy Orinoco crude to produce Merey 16 export blend.

"PdV since March is sending Mesa 30 crude to Cuba that is needed here to produce gasoline," Bodas said.

The Venezuelan light crude was used to restart the 65,000 b/d Cienfuegos refinery in Cuba, where fuel shortages are even more acute. The refinery is owned by Cuvenpetrol, a joint venture of Cuba´s state-owned oil company Cupet and PdV.

PdV has not reported the Puerto La Cruz refinery's shutdown officially. But a PdV downstream executive on site in Puerto La Cruz acknowledged that the distillation unit is "out of service temporarily for repairs." The unit will be restarted soon, he added.

PdV's crippled refineries are currently operating at about 38pc of their combined 1.3mn b/d nameplate capacity.

Union officials who work at the refineries estimate that the 940,000 b/d CRP refining complex in Paraguana, which includes the 635,000 b/d Amuay and 305,000 b/d Cardon refineries, is processing about a combined 460,000 b/d or 49pc of nameplate.

The 140,000 El Palito refinery is processing about 50,000 b/d, the officials said.

Oil union economists estimate that the Puerto La Cruz refinery's shutdown raises PdV's gasoline import needs to over 200,000 b/d or about 79pc of local daily gasoline consumption of some 255,000 b/d.

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