Isla Refinery Halts Search Amid Probe

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Curacaos government suspended its impending selection of a new operator for its Isla Refinery until a probe into corruption allegations regarding the selection is resolved, according to media reports.

Last July the refinery said it planned to choose a replacement for the refinery’s current operator, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., by October 2018. The selection was delayed, however, after the refinery’s supervisory board received unspecified allegations about the bidding, leading to the November launch of an investigation and to Refinery Managing Director Roderick Van Kwartel and two other employees being put on leave according to a November article by Reuters, one of the news organizations that reported suspension of the process on Friday.

Houston-based Motiva Enterprises, which is wholly owned by Saudi Aramco, was reportedly chosen as the preferred bidder, though refinery and government officials have refused to confirm or deny that.

The refinery has been searching for a suitor to take over operations once its contract with struggling Venezuelan-owned PDVSA runs up in December. A legal dispute between PDVSA and ConocoPhillips halted production at the refinery after the latter had seized crude feedstock shipments from the state-run firm last year.

Refinery officials announced at the start of this year that it was working to resume operations.

Financially troubled PDVSA has operated Isla Refinery since Shell conveyed it to the Netherland Antilles – now Curacao – in 1985.

Curacao is an island located in the southern Caribbean and is a constituent country of the Netherlands.

The Isla Refinery, located in Curacaos capital Willemstad, has crude oil production capacity of 335,000 barrels per day. The refinery includes a base oil plant that has capacity to produce 5,000 b/d of API Group I paraffinic base oils and 3,700 b/d of naphthenic stocks. When operating it is the second-biggest base oil plant in South and Central America and the Caribbean.

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