Iran to begin ‘major revamp’ of Venezuela’s largest oil refinery within weeks: Report

The Cradle, February 4, 2023 — Venezuela and Iran have significantly deepened cooperation in recent years as a way to overcome unilateral US sanctions.

Iran is set to start work on a major overhaul of Venezuela’s largest oil refinery complex, the Paraguana Refining Center, in the coming weeks, according to informed sources who spoke with Reuters.

The news was revealed hours after Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during an official visit to Caracas on 3 February.

“I am certain that bilateral relations will continue to improve for technological, industrial, scientific, and cultural exchanges that benefit both peoples,” the Venezuelan leader said on Twitter.

Ahead of his meeting with Maduro, Amir-Abdollahian held talks with Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, Foreign Minister Yvan Gil Pinto, and Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami.

According to Reuter’s sources, state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC) in the coming weeks will sign a €460 million contract to overhaul the Paraguana refinery complex, which can produce 955,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Last May, a unit of NIORDC signed a €110 million contract with PDVSA to repair Venezuela’s smallest refinery, the 146,000 bpd El Palito.

Over recent years, Iran has proven instrumental in helping Venezuela overcome punitive US sanctions that have ravaged its oil sector, allowing Caracas to end its reliance on US refinery technology and helping the country boost its damaged economy.

The Paraguana revamp deal will reportedly allow NIORDC to hire contractors and outsource work to repair five of the complex’s nine distillation units. Iran will also be in charge of parts procurement, installation, and inspection before returning the refinery’s operations to PDVSA.

Work on the Paraguana overhaul will be conducted by at least 400 Iranian laborers working alongside 1,000 and 1,500 local staff and contractors.

The plan also calls for combining Chinese and Iranian parts and equipment in a refinery built initially using US technology.

The sources said that if the project is successful, a more extensive overhaul could follow in 2024 and 2025.

Technicians from the Islamic Republic are reportedly considering adding upgraded crude from the Petromonagas project, a PDVSA joint venture with a Russian state oil company.

As a result of the hybrid war waged on the country by the US and its allies, Venezuela’s oil output dropped from two million bpd in 2012 to just a few hundred thousand at the start of 2021, despite having some of the largest oil reserves in the world.

Military cooperation between the allied nations has also increased over the past decade. According to an exclusive report by The Cradle, in 2019 the late commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, visited Caracas to help with the establishment of revolutionary militias and the country’s military industrialization.

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