By KEJAL VYAS
CARACAS -- State energy monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, expects to bring its Amuay oil refinery back to production levels seen before the recent explosion by December, the company confirmed Friday.
Amuay, the country's largest refinery, has been running at around half of its total capacity of 645,000 bpd of oil since mid-September.
An Aug. 25 gas-leak explosion at the refinery killed more than 40 people and put a spotlight on PdVSA's management over the industry, which has been plagued by frequent accidents and mishaps that weighed on oil output in recent years.
PdVSA has on multiple occasions missed targets for resuming normal operations at Amuay. Reuters reported earlier that the company is waiting for replacements for parts that were damaged in the blast, which, once installed, will restore Amuay to pre-explosion processing levels.
Amuay was churning out 450,000 bpd before the accident, below what PdVSA officials have called "an optimal level" for the refinery, which should be processing between 460,000 and 480,000 bpd, Jesus Luongo, a PdVSA director, said in early September.
In addition to Amuay, smaller accidents have recently hit the adjacent Cardon refinery as well as the El Palito refinery.
Venezuelan authorities insist that domestic fuel demand is being satisfied internally, but data from the US Energy Information Administration, ship brokers and oil traders say that the resources-rich country has had to turn to importing.
US government data show Venezuela imported 34,000 bpd of finished motor gasoline in August from the US, up from 6,000 bpd in May and the most since Venezuela received 36,000 bpd in February 2003, amid an oil industry strike.
Dow Jones Newswires