Iran signs 110 million euro contract to repair Venezuelan refinery

CARACAS, May 13 (Reuters) - State firm National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company has signed a 110 million Euro contract to repair and restart Venezuela's smallest refinery, the 146,000-barrel per day El Palito, Iran's official news agency IRNA said on Friday.

The agreement follows negotiations led by Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji, who traveled to Venezuela earlier this month and met President Nicolas Maduro.

As Owji met Maduro and his counterpart, oil minister Tareck El Aissami, in Caracas, two supertankers arrived in Venezuelan waters carrying Iranian crude and condensate. The South American nation is trying to boost crude exports and fuel output.

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Owji was accompanied by Iran's deputy minister and the CEO of National Iranian Oil and Distribution Company (NIORDC), parent of National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company, IRNA said.

The contract includes repairs, commissioning and completion at El Palito, said Farhad Ahmadi, managing director of NIORDC. The refinery is currently operating at about half its capacity after restarting a crude distillation unit earlier this month.

"The project will be financed by Naftiran Intertrade Company," Ahmadi added, according to IRNA's report. The crude to feed El Palito will also be provided by Naftiran.

Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA and Venezuela's oil ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Venezuela began importing Iranian heavy crude this month, provided by Naftiran, documents from PDVSA, which owns and operates El Palito, showed.

The deal widens a previous swap agreement signed last year by the U.S. sanctioned countries to exchange Iranian condensate for Venezuelan heavy crude.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Mircely Guanipa; writing by Marianna Parraga; edited by Gary McWilliams

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