(Argus, 8.Mar.2019) — Nearly all Venezuelans are still without electricity this morning because of an unprecedented nationwide blackout that has paralyzed economic activity and crippled the already precarious oil industry.
The widespread outage started yesterday afternoon, and state-owned utility Corpoelec says power will be restored today, without detailing when.
Communications inside national oil company PdV have nearly collapsed. The industry relies on the grid for most of its operations, so production, transportation, processing and exports are likely severely impacted.
“There is hardly any communication,” a PdV official tells Argus, adding that people are staying home. “Pdvsa has a contingency plan but there is not much to hope for.”
According to a 1 March PdV internal report, only 775MW of the company‘s total thermal generating capacity of 2.87GW was operational at the time. The main refining complex, 940,000 b/d CRP comprising the Amuay and Cardon refineries, has an independent thermal power unit but it has been plagued by operational problems for years. The CRP was operating at only around 10pc of capacity before the blackout because of equipment failures and a shortage of feedstock.
PdV’s upstream and downstream operations were already pummeled by a host of chronic problems, including a lack of maintenance, spare parts and skilled labor. US sanctions have diminished refined products supply and severely limited crude export options. Prior to the loss of power, Venezuela was producing around 950,000 b/d of crude, off by around 150,000 b/d from February.
Electricity minister Luis Motta blamed sabotage at the 10GW Guri hydroelectric complex, an often-repeated political assessment during crises.
“The electricity war announced and directed by US imperialism against our people will be defeated,” president Nicolas Maduro said on Twitter last night.
His rival for the presidency, opposition leader and National Assembly president Juan Guaidó, said on Twitter that the blackout was “evidence of the inefficiency of the usurper,” referring to Maduro. “The recovery of the electricity sector and the country will take place when then usurpation ends.”
Guaidó is considered Venezuela´s legitimate interim president by most Western countries.
The blackout has ratcheted up nerves in a country that was already on edge over the political standoff between Maduro and Guaidó.
Venezuelan military installations are also without electricity this morning, army sources tell Argus.