By JEFF FICK
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian state-run oil company Petroleo
Brasileiro, or Petrobras, said late Tuesday that it could team
with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. to build a
much-needed refinery that would help reduce heavy imports of
gasoline and diesel.
Petrobras and Sinopec, as the Chinese firm is also known,
signed a letter of intent to study a possible joint venture to
build the Premium 1 refinery in the northeastern
Brazilian state of Maranhao. Petrobras announced a similar
joint-venture study to build the Premium 2 refinery in nearby Ceara state with
South Korea's GS Energy Corp. on June 10.
Brazil desperately needs to increase refining capacity as
growing consumption of gasoline and diesel outpaces current
processing capacity of slightly more than 2 million barrels per
day. The refining shortfall has forced
Petrobras to import heavy amounts of the two fuels over the
past two years, severely undercutting the company's
Petrobras is currently building two refineries, Comperj in
Rio de Janeiro state and Abreu e Lima in Pernambuco state.
Abreu e Lima, the first of the already delayed projects, won't be ready until
November 2014 at the earliest.
Despite the added refining capacity, Petrobras still
estimates consumption will outpace refining capacity by nearly
1 million bpd in 2020 without the two so-called "premium"
Refining accounts for about 27% of
Petrobras's $237 billion 2013-2017 investment plan.
The two premium refineries aren't expected to be complete
before 2017 or 2018, a timetable that will force Petrobras to
make a final decision on the two projects by July, CEO Maria das
Gracas Foster said in an interview earlier this year.
Premium 1 will process 300,000 bpd initially, but there are
plans to eventually expand the refinery by another 300,000 bpd in
2020. Premium 2 will be able to process about 300,000 bpd when
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