HAVANA, Cuba (Caribbean Net News) - A modernized oil refinery is set to go on line in December 2007, official media reported, in a shift due to turn import-dependent Cuba into an oil exporter.
Overhauled with capital from a joint Venezuelan-Cuban company, the Cienfuegos refinery in south-central Cuba will meet the Caribbean country’s own demands, and earmark 9,000 barrels of gasoline a day for export, Venezuela’s communications and information ministry said in a release circulated here.
Vice President Carlos Lage confirmed the facility was set to start operations in December, the Juventud Rebelde newspaper reported.
Vice President Lage said the refinery would process 65,000 barrels per day of petroleum by late this year or early 2008, the paper said.
Cuban authorities in late March said Havana was optimistic and it could soon see a breakthrough in exploiting major oil reserves.
That could mark a sea of change that would see the cash-strapped regime become a flush energy exporter, with ample funding to perpetuate itself.
At the moment, Cuba gets cut-rate oil from Venezuela, its closest international ally and most important economic partner.
The Spanish multinational is just one of the firms elbowing in, along with Norsk Hydro, Canada’s Sherrit, Malaysia’s Petronas and India’s Videsh.
Cuba has divided its exclusive zone into 59 blocs for exploration and production, 16 of which are contracted out. Repsol has six, Sherrit and Petronas have four each, while Videsh has two.
Repsol in 2005 was the first to break ground in the area, but the company determined the crude it discovered was not commercially exploitable at that time.
In 2006, Cuba produced about 3.9 million tonnes of oil, seven times more than 1990 when the former East bloc collapsed, depriving Cuba of its long-accustomed supply of cut-rate Soviet crude.
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