(Argus, 20.May.2020) — State-owned PdV has partially restarted a 70,000 b/d delayed coker which had been off line for over a year at its 305,000 b/d Cardon refinery, three PdV and oil union officials said.
Once the coking unit operations have stabilized, PdV plans to ship the coke to Cuban state-owned Cupet for re-export to clients in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey that PdV was supplying before US sanctions disrupted direct exports from Venezuela, two PdV refinery managers told Argus.
The coker is one of four units that PdV workers have partially restarted since last month at Cardon using parts stripped from the company’s other inoperative refineries and parts flown to Venezuela from Iran and China by Iranian state-owned Mahan Air.
The other Cardon units that are partially back in service include a 50,000 b/d atmospheric distillation tower, a vacuum distillation unit and a gas unit.
Aside from broken equipment, the limited refinery operations are unstable because of a lack of steady utility services, including water, gas and electricity, as well as a shortage of crude feedstock.
None of the units can be operated safely at more than 50pc capacity because of their “generally poor condition,” a PdV manager said.
PdV does not anticipate receiving any revenue from the coke exports, as Cupet will book them as payment for mostly security and health services the Cuban government provides to Venezuela, an oil ministry official said.
Cuba is a close Venezuelan ally that relies on PdV for oil supply.
Cardon is part of the 940,000 b/d CRP refining complex, which also includes the 635,000 b/d Amuay refinery. PdV has been working to repair the complex, with help from Iran and China, in an effort to replenish domestic fuel supply. Iran is also sending gasoline cargoes due to start arriving early next week.
Mostly unskilled PdV workers are struggling to repair key processing units at the CRP, including two fluid catalytic crackers (FCCs) with combined nameplate capacity of 194,000 b/d, senior oil union official Ivan Freites said.
PdV expects to resume some gasoline production at the CRP no later than mid-July but Freites said repairs cannot be completed in under six months. Strict fuel rationing likely will remain in effect until at least the start of 2021, he added.
The international coke market remains weak, with mid-sulphur coke of the kind produced by Venezuela fetching a premium of only $3.50/t to the fob US Gulf 6.5pc sulphur benchmark, compared with spikes of more than $20/t in recent years.