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Oil shortage compounded by hurricane damage

26 Sep 2017, 5.52 pm GMT

Oil shortage compounded by hurricane damage

Irma's impact on the critical tourism and agricultural sectors has reduced the island's ability to pay for fuel imports

Kingston, 26 September (Argus) — Hurricane damage to Cuba's critical tourism and agricultural sectors has reduced the supply of hard currency available to pay for oil imports.

The two cash-generating sectors suffered "extensive" damage from Hurricane Irma, which passed the northern coast on 8 September, local officials say. Strong winds and heavy rains damaged hotels and several airports, thwarting commercial flights that bring in US tourists. And flooding at sugar cane fields is likely to reduce mill production this year, Havana says.

"[Irma's impact] is a setback not only for energy, but for the national economy," an official at state-owned oil company Cupet says. "Reduced income will affect all economic sectors, including fuel imports that must be paid for in cash."

Venezuela's state-owned PdV previously exported around 100,000 b/d of crude and products to Cuba under preferential terms based on an agreement signed in 2000. The Venezuelan oil is a critical supplement to domestic oil production of around 40,000 b/d.

But PdV's steadily declining production and its oil-backed loan commitments, mainly to China, have eroded supplies to Cuba. The country imported around 68,000 b/d of Venezuelan oil in the first half of this year, Cupet says.

Cuba has also suffered "widespread" damage to power plants and transmission infrastructure as a result of the storms, state-owned utility UNE says. UNE is restoring power in "isolated and unconnected" areas served by remote power generators, but the national grid will take "many months" to repair, it says.

Most of the island's generators outside of the cities of Santiago and Cienfuegos are in the north, where Irma hit hardest, UNE says. Affected facilities include the 330MW Antonio Guiteras oil-fired power plant in Matanzas on the north coast, which was flooded by seawater.

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