April 17, 2014 / 3:53 PM / 6 years ago

Ecuador's largest refinery to close for renovations in Oct and Nov

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador’s largest refinery, with a 110,000 barrel-per-day capacity, will cease operations completely between October and November for renovations, the oil minister said.

The modernization of the Esmeraldas refinery has been on the cards since 2011, but was delayed while new parts for the refinery were imported.

Oil Minister Pedro Merizalde told Reuters the overall modernization process would begin on July 12 and finish in 2015.

“We anticipate that in twelve or thirteen months ... it will be like new, hopefully, and have better products, recouping the best efficiency we can,” Merizalde told Reuters late on Wednesday.

“The total stoppage of the refinery is projected between October and November,” he added.

A new reactor and regenerator will be installed in the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCC).

The minister said that the total cost of modernization would be approximately $900 million, a $200 million jump from the original price tag of $700 million.

The Esmeralda refinery, which usually operates at between 80 and 90 percent capacity, processed 92,400 barrels of crude on Wednesday, after lowering production during a power cut at the beginning of April, according to state oil company Petroecuador.

The refinery has had to halt production several times in recent years because of out-dated infrastructure.

The refinery’s overhaul is part of Petroecuador’s plan to increase production of refined oil products, which should allow the country to export fuel in the future rather than only crude oil.

Ecuador is OPEC’s smallest member and currently produces around 550,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Alden Bentley

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