(Adds context, details on time frame)
By Sailu Urribarri
July 23 (Reuters) - Curacao’s Isla refinery is considering offers from 15 companies interested in temporarily operating the 335,000-barrel-per-day facility to replace the current operator, Venezuela’s ailing PDVSA state oil company, the refinery and the Curacao government said in a joint statement on Monday.
Isla has been largely idled due to a lack of crude shipments to the plant as PDVSA struggles with a production crisis due to lack of investments, a brain drain, crime and decaying infrastructure.
The situation has worsened since ConocoPhillips in May obtained court orders and seized some PDVSA inventories, assets and cargoes in the Caribbean to satisfy a $2 billion arbitration award over the 2007 nationalization of the U.S. producer’s projects in Venezuela.
The refinery sent letters in June to oil companies and traders offering operating partnerships both for the short term and under a long-term lease, according to a copy of one letter seen by Reuters.
A short-term operator will be chosen by September, with a Memorandum of Understanding signed the following month, the statement said. A long-term operator will be chosen by year-end and begin operating the refinery after PDVSA’s lease comes to an end in December 2019.
The government declined to provide details on the 15 companies. PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment, but the refinery said the Caracas-based company was open to allowing a new operator.
“PDVSA is important in the search for a third party and that is why we will soon continue the dialogue we recently began in Caracas,” the statement read. (Reporting by Sailu Urribarri and Marianna Parraga; Writing Brian Ellsworth and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Dan Grebler)