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Energy

Citgo expects refinery utilization rate to keep rising in 2nd qtr -CEO

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Citgo Petroleum refinery is pictured in Sulphur, Louisiana, U.S., June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

June 9 (Reuters) - U.S. refining company Citgo Petroleum Corp (PDVSAC.UL) expects to continue increasing its refinery utilization rates after weather events hit its facilities last year and in the first quarter, Chief Executive Carlos Jorda said on Wednesday.

The company's utilization rate rose in March for an average of 83% in the first three months of the year, when a cold snap that severely affected refiners in the U.S. Gulf Coast contributed to Citgo's net loss of $180 million.

"Citgo's utilization rate fell in 2021 due to the winter storm, but fortunately we are forecasting a return to maximum utilization in the second quarter," Jorda said in an online conference.

The storm forced Citgo to shut its Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery for two weeks. The company paid $21 million in repairs and last month reported total costs of about $60 million related to the storm. Citgo can process 769,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude between Corpus Christi and plants in Louisiana and Illinois.

Citgo is a unit of Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) (PDVSA.UL), but has been controlled by the South American nation's opposition-held congress since the U.S. sanctioned PDVSA in 2019. Since then, its results have been hit by factors including its inability to import Venezuelan crude or ship refined products there.

The firm had compensated in part by processing more Maya and Castilla heavy crudes from Mexico and Colombia, but those grades are no longer yielding the same margins for U.S. Gulf refiners, the executive added, so Citgo is working on refining more lighter crudes while expanding its markets for fuel exports.

Jorda said Citgo could buy 290,000 bpd of Venezuelan crude and ship 125,000 after a possible political transition resulting in the lifting of sanctions.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga and Luc Cohen Editing by Chris Reese

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