Venezuela reaches deal to operate Curacao refinery for another year

Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA will operate Curacao’s 335,000 barrel-per-day Isla refinery for up to a year more, a spokesman for Curacao’s state refining company, Refineria di Koursou (RdK).

PDVSA’s contract to operate the refinery was set to expire at the end of this year. The spokesman described the agreement as a “transition” measure as RdK continued efforts to find a new operator.

RdK said in September that it had opened exclusive talks with industrial commodities conglomerate Klesch Group to operate the refinery.

RdK said at the time that a definitive agreement would be reached by the end of November. Talks with Klesch are ongoing, the spokesman said.

Leaving Isla would be a further blow to PDVSA which has seen its crude output plunge by more than half since 2016 due to underinvestment and mismanagement, and more recently due to U.S. sanctions intended to force out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

PDVSA President Manuel Quevedo, also Venezuela’s oil minister, visited Curacao in July to discuss the possibility of the company staying on to operate the refinery.

RdK officials met with Quevedo in Caracas on Saturday to discuss the transition arrangement, the company said in a statement, adding that the parties discussed the possibility of doing maintenance work on the refinery.

Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.

In May, the U.S. government issued a license allowing Curacao’s refinery to keep working with PDVSA through January 2020 despite the sanctions.

RdK said in the statement that the license allowed for an additional transition period of up to a year during which the company can generate the revenue needed to maintain refining operations and pay workers, but not turn a profit. (Reporting by Sailu Urribari; Additional reporting and writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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