(Adds attempt to reach PDVSA and Venezuela’s oil ministry; context)
PUNTO FIJO, Venezuela, July 18 (Reuters) - Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA partly restarted activity at its 645,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Amuay refinery where a blackout halted operations in early July, four sources with knowledge of the matter said, though it remained well below capacity.
The refinery’s catalytic cracker restarted and was processing 68,000 bpd, one of the sources said. Three other sources said two distilling units were processing a total of 135,000 bpd. The neighboring 310,000 bpd Cardon refinery remains offline, the sources said.
Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.
Outages are frequent at the twin facilities that together form the 955,000 bpd Paraguana Refining Center, which has been operating well below capacity for years because of chronic operational problems aggravated by OPEC member Venezuela’s economic crisis.
Low output from the refineries, together with sanctions on PDVSA by the United States as part of its effort to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, have contributed to fuel shortages throughout Venezuela in recent months. (Reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Luc Cohen; editing by Grant McCool)