Venezuela Cardon refinery halts gasoline output after reformer unit goes down, sources say

CARACAS (Reuters) - The Venezuela’s Cardon refinery has stopped producing gasoline because its reformate unit has down, according to a union leader and two other people knowledge of the situation.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Cardon refinery which belongs to the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in Punto Fijo, Venezuela July 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

State oil company (PDVSA) restarted gasoline production at its naphtha reformer a week ago, amid severe fuel shortages in the OPEC nation whose refining network suffers from chronic operational problems.

U.S. sanctions against the government of President Nicolas Maduro also make it difficult to import fuel.

“Yes, the reformer is halted,” said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

PDVSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The 45,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) reformer is typically used to convert naphtha into blending components used to raise the octane of gasoline. But PDVSA has been using it to produce some 25,000 bpd of gasoline for the domestic market.

Union leader Ivan Freites told Reuters that Cardon’s 88,000-bpd fluid catalytic cracking unit, which is crucial for large-scale gasoline production, is halted.

That plant could restart in the coming days, said Freites and the two refinery sources. The catalytic cracking unit remains halted at the 146,000-bpd El Palito refinery.

Venezuela consumes about 180,000 bpd of gasoline amid an economic crisis and coronavirus quarantine measures. But PDVSA is only supplying 30,000 bpd, causing huge lines and protests.

In May, a shipment of 1.5 million barrels of Iranian fuel temporarily improved supplies, but lines have returned as supplies dried up.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas, Mircely Guanipa in Maracay and Tibisay Romero in Valencia, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Lisa Shumaker