Recent shipments of Iranian crude sent for processing at PdV’s 140,000 b/d El Palito refinery – part of an energy deal between Caracas and Tehran – caused operational problems that required the crude to be processed instead at western Venezuela’s Centro de Refinacion Paraguana (CRP) refining complex, sources told Argus.
By Argus Media – Carlos Camacho
Aug 5, 2022
The El Palito refinery had many problems handling the Iranian crude in part because it was too acidic, said exiled oil union organizer Ivan Freites, with problems centered on distillation tower operations.
“So they opted to send the crude instead to CRP, and that is where they are processing it,” he said.
Another source said the Iranian crude caused problems at El Palito for many days before the transfer to CRP.
Pdv declined comment.
The Iranian crude has a gravity of about 28° API, which is lighter than Venezuela’s 16.2°API Merey grade. The acidity was an issue primarily because of a lack of maintenance at El Palito, according to another source, particularly due to unchecked corrosion.
Iran signed a deal in early May to supply refinery equipment to Venezuela and to help with repairs at El Palito. The country has been sending both diluent to blend with Venezuela’s heavy crude and Iranian crude to refine.
Since the agreement El Palito has faced labor problems. Hundreds of PdV Venezuelan workers have been fired and replaced with foreign workers, including Iranians, according to the unions.
Venezuela’s oil industry has also seen major and sometimes fatal accidents in recent years, including a massive explosion at the CRP’s Amuay refinery in 2012 that killed dozens, and a key natural gas pipeline hub fire three weeks ago. The government routinely blames those actions on “terrorists,” while critics and analysts point to lack of investment and maintenance problems.