May 10, 2016 / 7:37 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela crude port backlog to ease soon, loading arms being installed -union leader

CARACAS, May 10 (Reuters) - A backlog at Venezuela’s key oil-exporting port of Jose will ease up once state oil company PDVSA finishes installing new loading arms at the terminal towards the end of May, a union leader said on Tuesday.

Technical problems with the loading arms have since March sparked delays in filling and dispatching cargoes and created queues of tankers.

PDVSA said in a statement earlier this month that it was installing three new loading arms to speed up operations at Jose in eastern Venezuela, which loads some 70 percent of Venezuela’s crude exports.

“They’re saying it will be finished by the end of May,” said union leader Eudis Girot, who added some of the loading arms had already been installed.

“We expect the queue of ships will start to be more fluid.”

Caracas-based PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The export issue comes on top of significant issues at the OPEC country’s refinery circuit.

Gasoline-making fluid catalytic cracking units (FCC) at Venezuela’s biggest refinery, 645,000 barrel-per-day Amuay, as well as at the smaller Cardon and El Palito refineries are currently down, according to PDVSA, another union leader, and workers.

Output had already dropped at the refineries in recent months, with critics blaming shortages of spare parts, lack of maintenance, and a shaky electrical grid for outages and unplanned stoppages.

PDVSA confirmed earlier on Tuesday that 146,000 bpd El Palito had been undergoing general maintenance since April 11. The refinery has enough inventory of fuel and the maintenance is going well, the company added on Twitter.

Venezuela’s oil output may fall to average some 2.35 million barrels-per-day this year, as Venezuela’s cash crunch and shortages weigh on production, energy consulting firm IPD Latin America said last week. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer)

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