PdV refineries stutter, economic malaise deepens

OREANDA-NEWS. April 28, 2016. Venezuelan state-owned PdV?s main oil refining complex is operating at a fifth of its nameplate capacity, reflecting the Opec country broader economic malaise and the looming collapse of substantial power supply.

The 940,000 b/d CRP refining complex was processing only 205,000 b/d of crude, or 21.8pc of nameplate capacity, as of 19 April, according to a report authored by the defense ministry's western strategic operations command (Redio).

The CRP complex, which includes the 635,000 b/d Amuay refinery and the nearby 305,000 b/d Cardon refinery, accounts for over 72pc of PdV's total local refining capacity of 1.3mn b/d.

Using data provided by PdV, the defense ministry report says Amuay was processing 102,000 b/d as of 19 April or 16pc of nameplate. Cardon was processing only 103,000 b/d or 33.7pc of nameplate.

The defense ministry's numbers on operational capacity at Amuay and Cardon are significantly lower than official energy ministry and PdV assurances that both facilities regularly operate at over 70pc of nameplate.

Amuay refinery's FCC restarted on 25 April but PdV operators are having difficulty ramping up throughput volume, Futpv oil union executive Ivan Freites told Argus.

PdV and energy ministry officials were unavailable for comment today after president Nicolas Maduro yesterday decreed that government offices will be closed weekly from Wednesday to Friday to reduce power consumption until critically low water levels at the Guri hydropower reservoir recover from a nearly three-year drought.

Government entities starting today will only work two days per week — Mondays and Tuesdays — from 7:30am to 1pm.

The shortened government work week is part of a broader government effort to slow the strategic Guri reservoir's decline to levels that would force state-owned utility Corpolec to shut down up to 6GW of generation capacity at the 10GW Simon Bolivar complex on the lower Caroni River in Bolivar state.

The threatened shutdown would impact Venezuela?s oil operations, particularly refineries such as the CRP that rely on the national grid.

Guri?s water level was reported yesterday at 241.66m above sea level, approaching a 240masl threshold at which Corpoelec would shut down at least eight turbines to prevent possible structural damage.

Corpoelec currently has just over 16GW of operational power generation capacity, equivalent to 46.5pc of its total national power generation capacity of 34.4GW, the electricity ministry reports.

Corpoelec officially now rations power nationwide for at least four hours per day. But actual power outages in most parts of the country during April have increased to over 12 hours daily and up to 48 hours at a time in some parts.

Caracas remains officially exempt from Corpoelec's expanded power rationing, reflecting the Maduro government's fear that riots could break out if the capital city's over 7mn residents are subjected to prolonged outages.

Sporadic rioting and looting were reported this week in 18 of the country's 23 states. Tensions are running high in populous states such as Zulia, Carabobo, Aragua and Anzoategui, a defense ministry official told Argus yesterday by telephone.

The Maduro government appears to be preparing for widespread civil unrest. Maduro on 23 April ordered the defense ministry to create rapid deployment anti-riot forces as business chamber Fedecamaras reported that national food inventories have dropped to less than 15 days.