WILLEMSTAD - Venezuelan state-owned PdV is in the process of partially restarting the Isla refinery in Curaçao after delivering a token volume of heavy crude last month.
One crude distillation unit and one thermal cracker used to process crude will resume operations in the next couple of days. He declined to comment on the expected duration of the operations and crude supply from Venezuela.
"Our plan is to operate the refinery in 2019 as we have for the past 30 years," the spokesman said, asserting that misinformation and bias had distorted the public´s understanding of the refinery´s challenges. He attributed last year´s operational issues to a lack of utility services but acknowledged that crude supply was "not optimum".
A senior executive close to the management of the refinery said that the restart is more of a "public relations" effort by PdV rather than a sustained revival of long-stalled operations. The Venezuelan company delivered 200,000 bl of Tía Juana Heavy crude (TJP) to the refinery on the island in December, a volume that is equivalent to about one week of refining operations, the executive said.
The partial restart comes on the eve of the expected signing this month of a preliminary refinery operation agreement with Saudi Arabia's US refining arm Motiva by Curacao's state-owned refinery owner RdK. Motiva has not commented.
PdV's long-term operating lease for the refinery and the Bullen Bay deep water terminal expires in December 2019. Venezuelan officials have indicated an interest in retaining access to Bullen Bay, which is a key part of PdV´s logistical network in the Dutch Caribbean.
RdK last month selected Motiva as the preferred bidder to manage and operate Isla after PdV's lease expires, with a possible early step-in option to jumpstart operations.
The Isla spokesman said the refinery talks are taking place between RdK and PdV, not at the level of Isla, and declined to comment.
The century-old refinery has nameplate capacity of 335,000 b/d, but operated normally at around 220,000 b/d. The facility was mostly idle last year amid the feedstock deficit and broken utility services. The utilities provided by state-owned CRU have now been mostly repaired.
PdV´s Dutch Caribbean assets grabbed headlines in May 2018 when ConocoPhillips imposed a series of prejudgment attachments on the Venezuelan company´s assets in an effort to collect a $2bn arbitration debt. PdV reached a settlement with ConocoPhillips in August, effectively reopening the Dutch Caribbean corridor. But individual PdV crude cargoes and vessels continue to be targeted by creditors in the Dutch Caribbean jurisdiction.
The partial restart of the Curacao refinery contrasts with PdV´s loss or abandonment of its other Caribbean assets. This week Jamaica´s government said it would take over PdV´s 49pc stake in its 35,000 b/d PetroJam refinery. PdV also lost its stake in Cuba´s 65,000 b/d Cienfuegos refinery, but continues to supply around 50,000 b/d to the facility.