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CARACAS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA plans to invest $20 billion to expand its domestic refining capacity by 20 percent, a company official said on Wednesday, without providing a time frame for when the investments would take place.
The OPEC nation has in recent years announced aggressive expansion plans for its oil industry that have not come to fruition, and has consistently struggled with accidents and outages in its domestic refining circuit.
Refining chief Jesus Luongo said PDVSA would add 265,000 barrels per day (bpd) of refining capacity to the current 1.3 million bpd. The plans include doubling the capacity of the 146,000 bpd El Palito facility and boosting capacity of the 187,000 bpd Puerto la Cruz refinery by 20,000 to 25,000 bpd.
The plans also involve optimizing the operations of the Paraguana Refining Center (CRP) to boost its output, which has historically been considerably lower than its 965,000 bpd capacity.
"During 100 years of oil production, we've not done enough to develop our (refining) capacity," said Luongo during an oil conference in the eastern city of Puerto la Cruz, broadcast over PDVSA's radio station.
A PDVSA spokesman, asked about the time frame for the investments, said he did not immediately have the information on hand.
The CRP complex in 2012 was hit by an explosion and massive fire that killed close to forty people and left one of its distillation units offline for months.
Chronic refinery problems have forced PDVSA to rely on imports of fuel and blending components to meet demand on the heavily subsidized domestic market, where drivers can fill their tanks at costs that are less than that of a soft drink. (Reporting by Deigo Ore; Writing Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Chris Reese)