Of 18 economic activities, oil refining was the most contracted in the second quarter of the year: -36.2%, compared to the same period last year, according to the latest report of National Accounts of the Central Bank of Ecuador published on Friday of last week.
Compared to the first quarter of 2018, oil refining contracted 17.6%.
What are the causes for the drop in crude refining activity?
The expert in oil refining and expropriating of Petroproducción, Edmundo Brown, assures that the reduction of the activity in the sector is consequence in the strikes in the Refinery of Esmeraldas, after the damages that the complex undergoes after the rehabilitation that the previous Government realized and whose investment exceeded 2,000 million dollars.
For example, between the end of March and the beginning of April of this year, the Esmeraldas Refinery carried out a scheduled 15-day break. On that occasion, the Hydrodesulphurizing Unit (HDS) will be intervened. This is responsible for removing sulfur from diesel. This activity sought to improve and guarantee the operating conditions of the refining complex.
In May, the refinery had one drawback: an unscheduled stoppage. The presence of a snake in a strategic area of the refinery paralyzed operations for several days.
In total, two scheduled stops were planned for this year: one in March, which was completed, and the other in August, which was postponed until March 2019. According to the Hydrocarbons Ministry, the repair was postponed due to the company contractor, in charge of supplying the pipes for the VH1 furnace of the vacuum plant, has had delays in the provision of the products.
But Brown says there have been more unscheduled stoppages. In the first half of the year, the Esmeraldas Refinery had two to three shutdowns per month. In total, there have been 18 stoppages.
According to figures from Petroecuador, in the Esmeraldas Refinery, from January to August of this year, the production of fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), for domestic use, has fallen by 15.8% compared to the same period from last year. While diesel 2 and premium diesel decreased 14.2% and 1.3%, respectively.
In this week, the Government announced that five large oil works are being audited with the help of the United Nations Organization (UNO), promoted by former President Rafael Correa during his decade of government, whose total value amounts to 5,042 million dollars. Among them is the Esmeraldas Refinery.
The other four works are the Pascuales-Cuenca pipeline, the Monteverde Chorrillo storage plant, the Bajo Alto liquefaction plant and the Pacific Refinery.
At the end of last year, it was reported that the referential cost for the audit of each project will be $ 1.5 million. In other words, a total of close to $ 7.5 million will be allocated from Petroecuador’s accounts.
According to the authorities, four companies from Spain, the United States and England, endorsed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), began two weeks ago an audit of the five works. It is estimated that between 60 and 90 days will take the review of the projects.
Brown says that for the Esmeraldas Refinery there is still no auditing company and that it will be hired in these days. For this reason the former manager of Petroproducción believes that the results of the analysis of the repowering of the refining complex are ready at the beginning of next year. (I)