Venezuela's PDVSA restarts gasoline output at Cardon refinery

FILE PHOTO: The Petroleos de Venezuela, S. A. (PDVSA) logo is seen at their headquarters in La Paz, Bolivia, January 9, 2020. REUTERS/David Mercado

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela has restarted gasoline output at its 310,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Cardon refinery, two people familiar with the matter said, as the OPEC nation suffers from fuel shortages.

Cardon’s catalytic cracking unit, which is crucial to gasoline output, halted activity last week following a fire in the plant that was quickly contained.

It restarted output in the days following the incident and is now producing some 30,000 bpd of gasoline, union leader Ivan Freites said on Saturday. A second person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the catalytic cracking unit was functioning as of late last week.

PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cardon is the only refinery currently producing gasoline in Venezuela, whose 1.3 million bpd refining network is mostly halted after years of underinvestment and lack of maintenance. U.S. sanctions on PDVSA are also choking off imports of gasoline.

The supply of gasoline has improved somewhat in the past six weeks due to the restart of output at Cardon and the arrival of tankers carrying fuel from Iran between late May and early June. PDVSA is currently dispatching 60,000 bpd of gasoline to service stations across the country, according to an industry source, up from 30,000 bpd during the height of the fuel crisis in May.

A nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is helping reduce fuel demand.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Venezuela; Editing by Leslie Adler; Writing by Luc Cohen