Venezuelan PDVSA's unit in the United States, Citgo Petroleum, is working to restart some processing units at the Aruba refinery under a 25-year lease contract with the government of the Caribbean island, sources at the facility and firms involved told Reuters on Saturday.
The Aruba refinery's former operator, Valero Energy Corp, has not been involved in the negotiations, but the island has guaranteed the U.S. company that it can walk away from the refinery with zero environmental liability and without obligation to dismantle it.
A source from the refinery, with capacity to run 235,000 barrels per day of crude, said a technical team has been working since September on the facility's new configuration, including equipment replacement. Other sources added the process of hiring staff and contractors is about to begin.
A spokesman for Aruba's government told Reuters a group of representatives is currently in Houston discussing terms of a possible deal.
Valero told Reuters its policy is not to comment on business negotiations. PDVSA and Citgo were not immediately available.
Even though PDVSA's financial condition is weak amid low crude prices, its subsidiary Citgo enjoyed some relief in 2015 due to higher refining margins, which would allow it to direct a portion of its profit to Aruba.
Last month, the catalysts used at Aruba's hydrodesulfurization unit (HDS) were removed and new ones are planned for purchase, one of the sources said.
But the restart date has yet to be defined. Operational units could take more than two years to get ready, another source said, because of the long time the facility has been idled.
U.S. Valero Energy halted Aruba refining operations in 2012 due to low profit. In 2014 it reclassified the facility as "abandoned," except for terminals currently used by it and PDVSA.
Aruba would offer a good way for PDVSA to produce heavy naphtha that it currently imports as diluent for its extra heavy oil output, and it would also produce refining feedstock for Citgo, according to the sources.
It is still unclear if the lease agreement will also include the terminal, but one of the sources said Valero has been reluctant to let it go.
The island's energy ministry in September confirmed a memorandum of understanding had been signed to explore reopening the facility. Valero paid $465 million for Aruba in 2004.
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas and Sailu Urribarri in Oranjestad; Editing by Terry Wade and Matthew Lewis)
Citgo, Aruba government postpone deadline to restart idled refinery
Aruba and Venezuelan PDVSA's refining unit Citgo Petroleum postponed a deadline to reach a final agreement to lease and restart an idled 235,000-barrel-per-day refinery, the government of the Caribbean island said late on Thursday.
The parties have, since 2015, been negotiating a 25-year lease that would allow Citgo to operate the refinery after investing in an overhaul.
The facility, which was operated by U.S. firm Valero Energy until 2012, was later classified as "abandoned."
The deadline to reach a deal, originally set for March 31, was extended for six more weeks following talks between Aruba's Energy ministry and Citgo executives in Houston, the government said.
Citgo also agreed to continue with a technical and financial analysis relating to the restart of the refinery's operational units.
Citgo had planned to start a staff-hiring process in April, according to a source. It is not clear if a new schedule was agreed by the parties as part of the postponement deal.
(Reporting by Sailu Urribarri; Writing by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
Kingston, 4 May (Argus) — Venezuelan state-owned PdV´s US downstream subsidiary Citgo and the government of Aruba are working to conclude a final agreement by 15 May for recommissioning and operating parts of the 235,000 b/d refinery on the Caribbean island, Aruban officials close to the negotiations told Argus.
US independent refiner Valero mothballed the refinery for economic reasons in March 2012.
The Aruba government and Citgo had set a 31 March deadline for concluding a final agreement, but this has been extended "by mutual consent," one official said.
The talks will determine the terms of a 25-year lease.
"There are many technical and financial details that have to be agreed, and these require more time," the official said.
"We are anxious for the refinery to be restarted, but we want to ensure that it is a viable and sustainable operation, and Citgo has similar concerns."
Neither Citgo nor Valero have commented on the negotiations that started in July 2015, after Valero agreed to temporarily suspend the dismantling of the refinery.
Dutch-controlled Aruba lies 29km (18mi) off Venezuela's coast.
The refinery would give cash-strapped PdV another nearby logistical base for offshore blending of its extra-heavy crude from the Orinoco oil belt with light crude and naphtha. The company already leases the Isla refinery in Curacao and leases Caribbean storage.
A Venezuelan official told Argus that PdV is structuring the deal through Citgo because it lacks the financial capacity to execute it on its own.
By leveraging Citgo, PdV ensures lower borrowing costs for any external financing needed to fund the recommissioning. The deal would also move some Citgo pre-tax revenue and profit to Aruba from the US, reducing Citgo's US tax bill, the official said.
When it was in operation, the refinery processed heavy sour crude into distillates and intermediate feedstock. It did not produce finished products.
The Aruba facility is currently used as an oil storage terminal, featuring 63 tanks with almost 12mn bl of total storage capacity.
The facility also has two deepwater marine docks capable of receiving ultra-large crude carriers and six refined product docks, as well as a truck rack for local deliveries.
Aruba's prime minister Mike Eman said in 2012 that China's state-run PetroChina had concluded an "agreement in principle" with Valero to purchase the refinery. The transaction did not materialize, leading Valero to close the facility.
ORANJESTAD - This year, the Aruba refinery will open again: the deal with Citgo is done.
That announced government adviser Richard Arends who is involved in the negotiations. The responsible energy minister makes later today more details known, Sharina Henriquez writes for the Caribbean Network.
In December, the government announced that Citgo, owned by the Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA, will lease the refinery for 15 to 25 years. The Aruban government will even take over the refinery in San Nicolas from current owner Valero. The deal would be around March 31, but that was not reached and it was decided to give 6 weeks each additional.