PDVSA to Invest US$2.3bn in Refinery Upgrades

Venezuela's state oil firm PDVSA announced on Monday plans to invest US$2.3bn to upgrade its El Palito and Puerto La Cruz refineries by 2010 as part of its plan to boost refining capacity in the country.

PDVSA will invest US$1.1bn in El Palito and US$1.2bn in Puerto La Cruz, PDVSA president and energy and oil minister Rafael Ramírez said at a meeting with potential oil and gas investors in the city of Los Taques, Falcón state.

The investment is designed to improve the refineries' efficiency, increase output and improve safety at the plants, he said.

The need to improve domestic refining capacity was made especially evident last week after a power failure at PDVSA's 600,000 barrel-a-day (b/d) Amuay refinery in western Venezuela shut down the facility for several days.


also plans to build three new refineries to boost its worldwide refining capacity by 600,000b/d to 3.9 million b/d, Ramírez said.

The new refinery projects are Caripito, Barinas and Cabruta, all of which are near the Orinoco belt, and are scheduled to start operations in 2010, Ramírez added.

Ramírez declined to provide an investment figure for the three new refineries. "These are important investments, we are still conceptualizing that," he said. PDVSA officials have previously put the cost of a new refinery at about US$3bn, a price tag higher than a normal refinery, mainly because they need to be specially tooled to process Venezuela's sulfur-heavy sour crude.

About a third of PDVSA's total current refining capacity, some 1.12mb/d, is located in the US, where wholly owned subsidiary Citgo owns or has participation in nine refineries and asphalt-making facilities. Another 852,000b/d are refined in Europe, where PDVSA owns another nine refineries.

In total, only three of the company's 22 refineries are located on Venezuelan soil. President Hugo Chávez has previously said PDVSA could sell some refineries in Europe or the US to focus on domestic operations and reduce its exposure to disadvantageous refining agreements in foreign countries.

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