UPDATE 1-Venezuela restarts largest refinery's catalytic cracker after 8 weeks

(Adds details and background)

MARACAY, Venezuela, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA on Friday restarted the fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) of its 645,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) Amuay refinery, the country’s largest, following an outage that halted operations for eight weeks, three sources from the facility said.

Outages and unplanned maintenance often interrupt operations at PDVSA’s aging 1.3-million-bpd refining network, leading to fuel scarcity, especially of gasoline and diesel.

Amuay’s FCC is essential for producing enough motor gasoline to meet the country’s demand. PDVSA in recent weeks had resorted to the neighboring Cardon refinery’s catalytic cracker, which can only process up to 45,000 bpd, for partially offsetting the lost of key operational units at Amuay.

Amuay’s 108,000-bpd FCC was out of service since early December due to equipment malfunctioning. The unit is currently processing some 67,000 bpd, one of the sources said.

Amuay and Cardon are part of PDVSA’s largest refining complex, the 955,000-bpd Paraguana Center. (Reporting by Mircely Guanipa and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Marianna Parraga and David Gregorio)