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China Sets Its Sights On First South American Refinery

China could be on the brink entering the refining industry in the Americas if it inks a deal with Brazil’s Petrobras that will see it invest in the Comperj refinery in exchange for local crude oil, two sources close to the negotiations told Reuters.

The Comperj refinery needs an injection of around US$3 billion, other sources said, in order to reach its initial processing capacity of 165,000 barrels per day and Petrobras has not made a commitment to fund the facility. China’s CNPC, however, could do that, the sources said, and in exchange receive stakes in some of the fields the Brazilian major operates in the Campos Basin as well as the right to use the Comperj refinery.

China has been investing heavily in South America with the energy sector a priority. Brazil in particular has been in the focus of Chinese investment attention but if completed, the current deal between CNPC and Petrobras would be the first in which the Brazilian company offers oil in exchange for investments. The two, however, are already partners in the Libra field, in another prolific basin, Santos.

Last year, Chinese investment in Brazil hit the highest since 2010, at US$20.9 billion, with oil and gas, logistics, and agriculture the top three destinations for Chinese money.

Construction of the Comperj refinery started a decade ago but has run into problems as it got caught up in the political corruption scandal that cost ex-president Dilma Rousseff her office and saw almost 100 business executives end up with jail sentences.

Petrobras, which poured US$13.5 billion into the refinery, had to take write-downs of almost US$2 billion on the project because of overpriced services related to its construction and equipment, Reuters said. Still, Petrobras wants to finish the construction as the country needs more locally produced fuels to reduce its dependence on imports.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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