After eight months, Cuba is once again receiving Venezuelan light crude oil, according to a Reuters report based on a PDVSA shipment document. A lack of supply was the cause of the eight-month pause that led to a production halt at the island’s jointly-owned Cienfuegos refinery. Last year, PDVSA minimized exports of its lighter grade crudes, especially to the Caribbean, which since then have been used mainly to dilute its extra-heavy oil and convert it into exportable crude.
Previously, PDVSA officials dismissed accusations that the state-owned oil company planned to reduce exports to Cuba, according to Xinhua. Instead, Caracas stated that production problems at the Cienfuegos refinery were caused by technical difficulties. Cienfuegos is a Soviet-era refinery originally built to process Russian crude and later upgraded by PDVSA to convert up to 65,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Venezuelan oil.
This supply fall caused unmet demand on the island, which led PDVSA to resume its Mesa 30 crude exports to Cuba, a source told Reuters. Overall, La Habana received 1.39 million crude barrels in March, coming from three separate cargos.
About 4 percent of Venezuela’s oil exports to Cuba had been halted prior to this shipment, even though the island is a member of the Petrocaribe alliance of nations that receive oil shipments under preferential conditions. In March, Cuba announced it would cut premium gasoline supply due to the drop in Venezuelan oil imports. This put the island in a difficult position, as Venezuelan crude imports are subsidized.