Havana—Cuba, with the help of allies China and Venezuela, intends to
triple its oil refining capacity from 120,000 to 360,000 barrels a day
by 2017, officials said Thursday.
Plans to expand and modernize two existing refineries on the communist
island and build a third have figured high in energy discussions in
recent days in Havana between Cuban, Chinese and Venezuelan officials.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited on Wednesday, while Chinese
vice president Xi Jinping wrapped up a three-day visit on Tuesday.
High on the agenda was Cuba's refinery in Cienfuegos, where China agreed
to help expand operations to include a LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant
as well as a gas pipeline.
Cuba and Venezuela plan to build another refinery in Matanzas province,
to include an oil pipeline down to Cienfuegos.
Venezuela is communist Cuba's closest regional ally. As Havana's key
economic partner, Caracas keeps the isolated Cuban regime economically
afloat with cut-rate oil and wide-ranging investment.
A Cuban industry ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity
that Cuba could now refine 120,000 barrels a day but that the
multi-million dollar investment plan would see capacity "substantially"
increase by 2017.
In an interview with the Venezuelan media, Hector Pernia, managing
director of Venezuela's state oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA),
said capacity at Cienfuegos would rise to 150,000 barrels per day in two
Modernization of the second refining facility and a new refinery should
bring overall capacity up to 360,000 barrels a day by 2017, officials said.
The only one-party communist regime in the Americas, Cuba has long been
plagued by energy dependence that amounts to its economic Achilles' heel.
Havana used to depend on the Soviet bloc for cut-rate oil and plunged
into economic chaos and blackouts when it was cut off after 1989.
Some studies estimate Cuba has probable reserves of between five and
nine billion barrels of oil in its economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cuban authorities have said their crude reserves are as high as 20
In 2010, Cuba produced 21 million barrels of oil, about the same as it
had extracted the previous year, representing a little less than half of
its annual energy needs.
Cuba depends on Venezuela for the rest of its oil imports, and any cut
to those supplies could spell political and economic disaster for