Aruba Offering Oil Storage After PDVH Exit

(Argus, 4.May.2020) — The Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba is offering to lease oil storage after terminating an ill-fated refining project with PdV Holding (PDVH), the opposition-controlled US subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil company PdV.

The lease offer comes at a time of severe tightness in onshore and floating oil storage owing to a historic supply glut and a collapse in demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aruba has 10 available storage tanks with capacity for 665,000 bl of clean products, 5.224mn bl of crude and 518,000 bl of naphtha, according to promotional material obtained by Argus. Another seven tanks currently awaiting repairs have capacity for 4.224mn bl of crude.

Aruba’s prime minister Evelyn Wever-Croes noted strong interest in the storage lease. “It will take us at least a month to get the best offer for Aruba, do the inspections of the tanks and start sending crude so we can receive the lease payment, which is being estimated to net at least 5mn florins ($2.8mn per month).”

The storage became available after Delaware-based PDVH signed an agreement with the government of Aruba and Refineria di Aruba (RdA) that puts a definitive end to a $1.1bn refinery project spearheaded by PdV in Caracas in 2016 and inherited by Venezuela’s political opposition last year when it took over PdV’s US assets.

After the long-term lease was signed in 2016, the project manager, Houston-based Citgo Petroleum, conducted preliminary work to refurbish Valero’s former 235,000 b/d San Nicolas refinery into a heavy crude upgrader. In addition to logistical advantages for PdV, the Aruba project would have helped to absorb Venezuelan crude production that could no longer be processed at mostly inoperable upgraders at PdV’s Jose complex in Venezuela.

PDVH and the government of Aruba and RdA started negotiations in April 2019 to end the project. A memorandum of understanding that suspended the project and laid the groundwork for an operational transition was signed in October 2019. On 28 February 2020, PDVH through its subsidiary Citgo Aruba Holding (CAH) signed a transfer of operatorship agreement with RdA. The withdrawal included labor severance packages.

Tax obligation

Under the new agreement that received final signatures on 1 May, PDVH agreed to pay $17mn in back taxes to Aruba. The funds already earmarked to comply with the tax obligation will come from PDVH, the holding company told Argus.

The “amicable” agreement “will potentially save PDV Holding’s shareholder up to US$150 million” and does not impact Citgo Petroleum’s fuel supply contracts with Fuels Marketing and Supply Aruba, and with Queen Beatrix International Airport for jet fuel, PDVH said. The firm added it will continue to cooperate “with investigations into irregularities in the Aruba Project under the prior management’s control.”

For Aruba, the termination agreement marks the end of “long and intense” negotiations. “There were times that we thought that we would not be able to finalize this because of the unstable situation in Venezuela,” Wever-Croes said after the signing last week.

— By Patricia Garip

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