May 4, 2019 / 5:19 PM / a year ago

Two of Venezuela's four crude upgraders still shuttered after blackout -document

PUNTO FIJO, Venezuela, May 4 (Reuters) - Two of Venezuela’s four crucial crude upgraders, needed to convert extra-heavy crude from the Orinoco oil belt into exportable grades, remained shuttered a month after a major blackout, according to a document seen by Reuters on Saturday.

State-owned oil company PDVSA nonetheless boosted its production of upgraded crude to 313,000 barrels on May 2 and 326,000 barrels on May 3, up from 298,000 in early April, as its two other upgraders and the Sinovensa mixing facility - a joint venture with China’s CNPC - came close to or exceeded expectations, the PDVSA document showed.

The OPEC nation’s crude output, the lifeblood of its economy, has fallen this year due to a wave of blackouts and U.S. sanctions on PDVSA. Despite the uptick, the upgraders’ total production remained well short of their combined capacity of some 700,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s Oil Ministry responded to a request for comment.

A PDVSA document seen by Reuters last month showed PDVSA did not expect the upgraders to increase production in April. It said Petromonagas, a joint venture with Russia’s Rosneft , would undergo “cleaning and repair” since its furnaces were blocked by waste products, and that Petrosanfelix, fully owned by PDVSA, was unlikely to restart.

The more recent document showed both those upgraders were still not producing, noting that activities at Petrosanfelix were “paralyzed.” It said Petromonagas had cleaned one of its furnaces, but that the re-start would be determined by “corporate strategy.”

Petrocedeno, a joint venture between PDVSA, France’s Total and Norway’s Equinor, was producing 71,000 bpd, or 99 percent of its planned output. Petropiar, part-owned by Chevron, produced 125,000 barrels on May 2 and 138,000 on May 3, above expectations, according to the document.

Petrosinovensa, which produces Merey crude, was producing 117,000 bpd, or 88 percent of its plan, it said.

The document also showed PDVSA had reduced its deficit of naphtha - a light oil product that it uses to dilute its crude - to 46,300 bpd, down from 70,700 last month, as the functioning upgraders boosted the rates at which they recovered used naphtha.

It said a tanker carrying 1 million barrels of imported naphtha had arrived in Venezuela in late April to help cover the deficit. (Reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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