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Venezuela’s Main Oil Refinery Shuts Down After Blackout

Venezuela’s refining complex CRP has been shut down after a blackout that occurred on Sunday, Argus Media reports, citing union officials from the complex as saying the blackout was caused by a “catastrophic failure” in a turbine at the power plant that supplies electricity to CRP.

The complex, also called Paraguana Refining Center, consists of two refineries with a combined processing capacity of 955,000 bpd. As Reuters noted in its report of the accident, the complex, like the rest of Venezuela’s processing facilities, has been operating below capacity for several years because of the same operational problems that have plagued Venezuela’s oil industry.

Reuters also quoted a refinery employee from the complex as saying restarting operations at CRP would be difficult, which would additionally exacerbate Venezuela’s oil woes, which are already pretty grave.

The United States imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and PDVSA at the end of January to cut off a cash lifeline for Nicolas Maduro and his regime, after Washington recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of the Latin American country that sits on the world’s largest crude oil reserves.

As a result, production has been falling faster than before and so have exports, especially to the United States. In March, the EIA reported the first week since records began that the U.S. took no Venezuelan crude at all.

Blackouts have also become more frequent since Washington slapped the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. A string of blackouts pretty much crippled the country in March. The oil industry suffered a particularly severe blow from the blackouts with all four upgraders turning the local extra heavy oil into a form more suitable for exports shutting down.

However, despite the persistent operational problems and the decline in production, Venezuelan oil exports have been on the rise as the South American country struggles to keep its end of the oil-for-cash bargain with China. Last month, daily exports rebounded to 1.1 million bpd because of this deal, with the amount going to China at 656,000 bpd.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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