Refinery repairs, imports ease Venezuelan gasoline gap

  • Market: Crude oil, Oil products
  • 01/02/21

Refinery repairs and the arrival of more Iranian gasoline have given Venezuela another breather from its chronic gasoline shortage.

State-owned PdV's 305,000 b/d Cardon refinery, the focus of its repair efforts, restarted gasoline and diesel production early yesterday after divers patched a ruptured crude supply pipeline that runs under Lake Maracaibo, according to three refinery officials.

Cardon currently is producing a combined 46,000 b/d of gasoline, including 22,000 b/d from its 86,000 b/d fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) and 24,000 b/d from its 54,000 b/d naphtha reformer.

Cardon's distillation unit 2 (CD-2) is processing just over 47,000 b/d of medium quality crude transported through the 143mi (230km) Ule pipeline that runs from mature fields on the east coast of the lake to the 940,000 b/d CRP refining complex on Paraguana.

The CRP complex, which PdV operates as an integrated facility, includes Cardon and the nearby 635,000 b/d Amuay refinery.

At Amuay, a single operational distillation unit integrated with a VGO unit is processing almost 65,300 b/d of medium quality crude.

Amuay's distillation unit 4 has been written off as a total loss after an October 2020 vapor blast inflicted catastrophic structural damage, according to a CRP manager.

The CRP is producing around 23,000 b/d of diesel overall. Together with 15,000 b/d of production at PdV's 190,000 b/d Puerto La Cruz refinery, the company is supplying up to 38,000 b/d of high-sulfur diesel.

Diesel supply has drawn extra scrutiny after the previous US administration banned crude-for-diesel swaps by non-US companies as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign against President Nicolas Maduro's government. The new US administration is considering reversing the ban as a humanitarian measure, potentially easing oil export bottlenecks and replenishing Venezuelan stocks of imported low-sulfur diesel.

The oil ministry estimates domestic gasoline demand at about 110,000 b/d. Diesel for transport and power generation, among other uses, is around 100,000 b/d.

The Maduro government has been rationing gasoline for more than a year as PdV struggles to repair and sustain a small part of its 1.3mn b/d refining system. Caracas blames US sanctions for the breakdowns. Critics point the finger at the government for years of neglect, corruption, labor flight and unsteady electricity supply.

Four PdV officials at the Jose and Guaraguao terminals in eastern Venezuela tell Argus that the Iran-flagged Faxon and Fortune arrived over the past week with over 400,000 bl of gasoline.

The tankers are among a handful that delivered gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela on two previous occasions last year, sparking an outcry from Washington. Caracas and Tehran are both targets of US sanctions.

In what has become a routine practice in Venezuela, the tankers have their transponders switched off.


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