Curacao shortlists refinery operators, awaits PdV

Photo: Henry Romero

 

Curacao’s state-owned RdK has shortlisted potential refinery operators on the eve of a visit by a delegation of the plant’s former leaseholder, Venezuelan state-owned PdV, to discuss outstanding debt.

By Argus Media – Patricia Garip

Jan 21, 2022

Binding offers for a new lease are due at the end of February, RdK said, adding more than 20 companies had expressed interest.

PdV operated the 335,000 b/d Isla refinery under a long-term lease that expired in December 2019. In the final years of the contract, the refinery operated sporadically because of a shortage of feedstock and services from Curacao’s state-owned utility CRU. It has been offline for years. Normal runs rarely surpassed 220,000 b/d.

In an unaudited consolidated financial debt statement issued this week, PdV says it owes $2mn to RdK-owned Isla. The arrears are dwarfed by Venezuela’s more than $150bn in unpaid debt, but for Caracas there is more at stake on the Dutch Caribbean island.

In a September 2021 Dutch appeals court ruling, RdK won the right to sell shares in PdV’s Netherlands subsidiary Propernyn to cover $52mn in total unpaid debt, an action attached to ConocoPhillips’ $10bn claim in the Dutch jurisdiction. Propernyn owns 15pc of European refiner Nynas and the inoperative 10mn bl Bopec terminal in Bonaire, both designed to handle Venezuelan crude.

The Curacao overture is another sign that Caracas is trying to get its financial house in order and initiate a debt restructuring to pressure the US to lift sanctions.

Curacao has not disclosed the names of the companies short-listed to restart and operate the Shell-built refinery. Previous efforts to replace its Venezuelan partner have failed, and former suitors include China’s GZE, Germany’s Klesch and a consortium led by Dutch contractor Corc.

Curacao, which lies 64km off Venezuela’s coast, had been part of PdV’s once-bustling near-shore logistical network that it has since lost, save for Bopec. The company’s commercial withdrawal from the Caribbean was accelerated by years of creditor liens and US financial and oil sanctions. Through its deepwater terminal, offshore services and storage tanks, Curacao helped channel Venezuelan oil to longer-haul destinations.

Elsewhere in the Dutch Caribbean, PdV sought to refurbish a refinery in Aruba into a heavy crude upgrader, a project that derailed after the US-backed Venezuelan opposition took control of PdV’s US refining arm Citgo in 2019. Aruba has now pivoted to gas with a project underway by US firm Eagle LNG.

Read More: Argus Media – Curacao shortlists refinery operators, awaits PdV

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