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Operations at the biggest oil refinery in Venezuela have stopped following a blackout that was caused by an electrical fault, Reuters has reported, noting that the Amuay facility has a capacity to process 645,000 bpd.
"Blackout in the Amuay refinery. An electrical problem. Total blackout. In Amuay, the distilling and catalytic plants might be affected, which is currently producing about 80% of the country's gasoline," an unnamed source told Reuters.
Unless the problem is fixed quickly, it could become quite grave as Amuay is the only refinery at the Paraguana complex that produces gasoline, and Venezuela has been in the grips of regular gasoline shortages because of U.S. sanctions for years now.
Last month, PDVSA suspended gasoline production at the second-largest refinery in the country, Cardon, because of an outage at its naphtha reformer unit, per a Reuters report citing multiple sources. Like Amuay, the Cardon refinery is part of the Paraguana complex.
The Amuay facility was also shut down temporarily last year after a fire erupted in one of its gasoline production units.
Venezuela's PDVSA has a refining capacity of 1.3 million bpd, but utilization rates have been falling for several years because of U.S. sanctions as well as technical problems caused by mismanagement, including lack of investment and lack of maintenance.
Venezuela has emerged as one source of fresh oil supply amid sanctions on Russian crude but it has proven harder than probably expected in Washington to mend fences with the Maduro government.
U.S. officials have visited Venezuela at least two times this year, the most recent one focusing on negotiations for the release of several U.S. citizens held in Venezuela, according to U.S. sources.
The underlying reason, however, is securing crude oil amid the global shortage caused by the imbalance between demand and supply that started amid the pandemic and only got worse after Western sanctions against Russia took effect.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.