UPDATE 2-Brazil's Petrobras to start refining at Abreu e Lima in Nov
(Adds Petrobras comment, details from conference call, share movement)
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO May 12 (Reuters) - Brazil's state-run oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, will start operations at its Abreu e Lima refinery in November, Chief Executive Maria das Gracas Foster said in a teleconference on Monday.
Petrobras, as the company is known, expects the refinery, also known as Refinaria do Nordeste (RNEST), to start running at half capacity, refining 115,000 barrels per day (bpd). Full refining will not start until mid-2015, when a second 115,000-bpd train is ready to start at the refinery, near Recife.
Another new Petrobras refinery, Comperj, in Rio de Janeiro, is expected to start its first production train in August 2016, Foster said during the conference call to discuss first-quarter results. On Friday the company said profit fell 30 percent in the quarter from a year earlier as costs rose and production stagnated.
Petrobras is hoping the RNEST and Comperj refineries will help cut refining-unit losses by reducing the need for fuel imports. Brazil's refineries have been unable to keep up with rising demand and domestic fuel-price controls have meant that imports to close the gap are sold in Brazil at a loss.
Petrobras has struggled to implement a $221 billion five-year investment plan as the fuel price controls and stagnant output starve the company of cash. Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras now has the highest debt levels and lowest profitability of any major oil company.
Petrobras is looking at a possible joint venture with China's Sinopec for a refinery in Brazil's Maranhao state, and should have an answer concerning Chinese participation by the end of the year, Jose Cosenza, Petrobras' head of refining and supply said on the conference call.
Despite the troubles, Foster said there is "almost zero" chance of reducing Petrobras' investments this year and next. Continuación...