July 23, 2019 / 12:02 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Curacao says PM, Venezuela oil minister discussed PDVSA remaining as refinery operator

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July 22 (Reuters) - Curacao’s prime minister and Venezuela’s oil minister discussed the possibility of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA remaining as the operator of the Caribbean nation’s 335,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Isla refinery, Curacao’s government said on Monday.

PDVSA’s contract will expire at year-end, and the government-owned refinery has been searching for a business partner to replace it. A lack of crude shipments has left the facility largely idle.

In the statement, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath’s office said he and Venezuelan Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo, who also serves as PDVSA’s president, during a meeting at the refinery “spoke about the startup of the refinery and the interest of PDVSA to remain as the operator after 2019.”

Refineria di Korsou, the state company that owns the facility, said last week that would start evaluating up to 10 proposals from energy companies interested in becoming a partner at the refinery. Its current schedule calls for the negotiations to start by October and for a deal to be reached by November.

The company said in a statement on Monday that it would not divulge the names of the parties that have delivered proposals.

When asked at a press conference whether PDVSA had submitted a formal proposal to continue operating the refinery, Quevedo said the company had “manifested publicly and in a formal manner our desire to continue operations.”

“We have no intention to leave,” Quevedo said.

OPEC member Venezuela’s crude production has fallen since the United States slapped sanctions on PDVSA in January as part of the Trump administration’s effort to pressure socialist President Nicolas Maduro to leave office amid a hyperinflationary economic collapse.

Venezuela suffered widespread blackouts on Monday in areas across the country, including the capital Caracas. (Reporting by Sailu Urribarri and Deisy Buitrago; writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Chris Reese and G Crosse)

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