PDVSA reactivates El Palito in the midst of the fuel shortage crisis

The reactivation of El Palito may help reduce fuel shortages, but it will not solve the problem, since it is the refinery with the smallest capacity in the country

The state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) resumed operations of the catalytic cracking unit at the El Palito refinery after almost a year of stoppage.

This is how they assured Reuters both a deputy of the National Assembly (AN) elected in 2020, William Rodríguez, and seven sources familiar with the matter.

El Palito, the country’s smallest refinery, is undergoing major repairs and expansion projects after a €100 million deal signed with Iran’s National Oil Refining and Distribution Company (Niordc).

It has a production capacity of 146,000 barrels per day (bpd), and the plant’s fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) unit has already restarted with output of 20,000 bpd, plant workers said.

According to Rodríguez, the unit could be at full capacity on Monday, which would promptly alleviate the gasoline shortage that plagues the Venezuelan population, especially in the interior of the country.

Unstable operations and frequent shutdowns in Venezuela’s 1.3 million bpd oil refining system have led to intermittent fuel shortages in recent years, forcing drivers to queue for hours to fill up their tanks. .

Iran has provided the government of President Nicolás Maduro with fuel and diluents to convert its extra-heavy crude into exportable varieties and since 2020 it has supplied spare parts to repair Venezuela’s refining circuit.

*Read also: Trump: “We were able to take Venezuela, now we buy oil and enrich a dictator”

Despite the investments and the importation of fuel, the distribution of fuel has not been able to normalize to its pre-pandemic standards, even despite the fact that the Chavista government decided to partially withdraw the gasoline subsidy that allowed vehicles to be supplied at prices laughable.

In recent weeks, the crisis has increased and social discontent is perceived in the interior of the country. The kilometric queues have aroused the discontent of the population and the authorities have been forced to offer statements to try to calm the waters, as happened with the governor of Lara, Adolfo Pereira, who asked for “calm” in the face of gasoline shortage.

«We depend on national distribution. The prospect is that it should improve, but we don’t know when, because we depend on the fuel that comes from PDVSA,” he explained, then warned that the military would patrol the city until the queues stopped.

In this context of scarcity, the general secretary of the Falcón State Oil and Gas Workers Union, Iván Freites, warned that the problem would not be solved as long as the failures of the plants in the Paraguaná Refining Complex were not corrected.

The reactivation of El Palito may help reduce fuel shortages, but it will not solve the problem, since it is the refinery with the smallest capacity in the country.

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