Update: Mercuria breathes life into Bullen Bay oil storage

WILLEMSTAD - Trading company Mercuria started using oil storage at the Bullen Bay terminal in Curaçao under a previously undisclosed short-term lease signed in December.

The Liberia-flagged Largo Sun delivered a first cargo to the terminal last week, breathing life into the long-dormant terminal. The medium-range tanker departed from Bullen Bay on 17 April after discharging around 318,000 bl of diesel and is currently en route to Galveston, Texas, according to vessel tracking services.

Curaçao state-owned RdK, which controls the assets, signed the six-month lease with Mercuria Energy Trading on 15 December, RdK indicated.

The contract allows for the use of 1.2mn bl of products and crude storage and can be extended upon mutual agreement, RdK said.

The terminal along with Curacao's Isla refinery had been operated by Venezuela's state-owned PdV under a long-term lease that expired in December 2019. The assets have been mostly idle since then as the island's government casts about for a new operator to replace PdV, which used the installations as part of an extensive nearshore logistical network in the Dutch Caribbean that eroded under the weight of unpaid debts and US sanctions.

Protracted negotiations

RdK is currently in protracted talks with the CORC consortium to restart the refinery, which has a nominal capacity of 335,000 b/d. Corc's lead partner is Dick and Doof, a Dutch contractor that formerly serviced Shell's Caribbean and Latin American downstream assets. The refinery, which is seen as critical to Curaçao's economy, was commissioned by Shell in 1918.

Two earlier preliminary refinery agreements, first with China's state-owned Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) and and later with Germany's Klesch, fell through.

In the final years of PdV's lease, the refinery operated only sporadically because of a lack of investment, services and feedstock. When it was operating normally, the refinery processed around 220,000 b/d of Venezuelan crude.




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