Curacao refinery recovering in wake of May fire

Operator Refineria Isla Curazao BV—a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned Petroleo de Venezuela SA (PDVSA)—continues to restart processing activities at the Curacaoan state-controlled Refineria Di Korsou NV's (RdK) 320,000-b/d Isla refinery at Emmastad, Curacao, following a late May fire at the plant’s crude distillation unit.

As of early June, the refinery’s thermal cracking plant 1 (TC-1) was entered into operation as a crude distiller to allow partial processing of light-to-medium crude previously destined for crude distillation unit 3 (CD-3), which was impacted by the May 21 fire, PDVSA said.

Alongside the restart of crude distillation unit 2A (CD-2A), Refineria Isla Curazao also has started up the refinery’s crude distillation unit 2B (CD-2B), which currently is processing Venezuelan heavy Tía Juana crude.

With TC-1, CD-2A, and CD-2B now online, the refinery is operating at close to its full processing capacity, PDVSA said.

While it did not disclose a timeline for when the refinery will return to its full normal production rates, PDVSA did confirm Isla has sufficient product inventory to continue supplying Curacao’s domestic market in a timely and reliable manner as the company works to complete repairs, the costs of which will be covered by insurance.

An investigation into the cause of the May fire remains under way.

Future plans

The midyear incident at the refinery follows the government of Curacao’s September 2016 memorandum of understanding with China’s state-owned Guandong Zhenrong Energy Co. Ltd. (GDZR), Guangzhou, under which GDZR has agreed to take over operatorship as well as finance an upgrade of the RdK-owned refinery (OGJ Online, Nov. 14, 2016).

Alongside work to replace the plant’s current use of heavy residual fuel oil to generate power with natural gas or LNG to help reduce environmental impacts and emissions at the manufacturing site as a means of extending its viability and competitiveness for another 20-30 years, GDZR will fund and execute a series of other modernization projects at the refinery and associated installations.

GDZR also has agreed to take responsibility for arranging and securing in advance delivery of crude supplies necessary to operate the refinery.

The MOU with GDZR follows RdK’s decision to select a new operator for the Emmastad refinery beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, at which time its lease agreement with current operator Refineria Isla Curazao is set to expire (OGJ Online, Mar. 19, 2010).

Contact Robert Brelsford at rbrelsford@ogjonline.com.

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