Catalytic cracking unit at Venezuela's Cardon refinery shut down
(Reuters) - The catalytic cracking unit at Venezuela's Cardon refinery, the country's second-biggest, has broken down and paused operations since the middle of the week, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday.
Venezuela's refining network has the capacity to process 1.3-million-barrels per day but it suffers frequent production problems. Critics of the state-owned oil company PDVSA blame a lack of investment and mismanagement, while the company says saboteurs cause damage to its refineries.
The fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) plant refines oil into other products with greater commercial value, such as gasoline.
Outages across the refining network lead to frequent shortages of fuel in the South American country.
"The plant broke down due to a failing compressor," one of the sources said, adding that the unit "had considerable damage."
PDVSA did not respond to requests for comment.
Cardon, which forms part of the Paraguana Refining Center in Venezuela's northwest, alongside the Amuay refinery, can process up to 310,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).
The refinery restarted one distillation unit on Friday after a failure, while a second unit remains shutdown.
The catalytic cracking unit at Amuay, Venezuela's largest refinery, has been shutdown for repairs since March, impacting production of gasoline.
PDVSA has in recent months made efforts to ramp up refining operations, without success, forcing users to wait in long lines to fill vehicles with gasoline, especially outside of capital Caracas.