Venezuela's biggest refinery halts gasoline production

A general view of the Amuay refinery complex which belongs to the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in Punto Fijo, Venezuela November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

CARACAS, Dec 2 (Reuters) - A refining unit that turns crude oil into fuel at Venezuela's largest crude processing facility has broken down, three people familiar with the operations told Reuters on Friday, halting production at the key gasoline producing plant.

The breakdown of the fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) caused the country's largest refinery, 645,000 barrel per day (bpd) Amuay on the Paraguana peninsula, to halt gasoline production on Thursday, one of the sources said.

Sluggish output from state-run oil firm PDVSA's ailing refineries, which are operating at a fraction of their processing capacity, has caused intermittent fuel shortages in the South American OPEC nation over recent years.

PDVSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the condition of Amuay's FCC unit.

Venezuela's refineries suffer frequent outages leading to production losses due to system failures and lack of supplies.

Amuay, together with the nearby Cardon refinery, make up the Paraguana Refining Center (CRP) in Venezuela's western Falcon state, with a combined crude processing capacity of 955,000 bpd.

Cardon's catalytic cracker, which can process up to 45,000 bpd, was still operational on Friday, the sources said.

Reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Maracay and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas; Editing by Chris Reese

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