The Chinese Ride to the Rescue of Venezuela’s Run-Down Oil Refineries

Sanctioned country is not able to cover its own gasoline needs

Venezuelan crude is notoriously heavy (sour), and difficult to refine

A Chinese contractor has agreed to shore up Venezuela’s derelict refining network to ease fuel shortages, potentially complicating the Trump administration’s push for regime change in the oil-rich country.

Wison Engineering Services Co., a Shanghai-based chemical engineering and construction company that is using China’s ‘Belt & Road’ infrastructure program to expand overseas, agreed last month to repair Venezuela’s main refineries in exchange for oil products including diesel, according to people with knowledge of the deal.

U.S. financial sanctions aimed at starving the current regime of revenue contributed to the decision to revive a domestic refining industry crippled by years of mismanagement and under-investment, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

The deal mirrors the OPEC producer’s other arrangements with Russian and Chinese oil majors, under which payments are made in crude by Venezuela’s cash-strapped national oil company.

Wison’s repairs are expected to last six months to a year, according to another person. The Nicolas Maduro administration was having difficulties navigating the U.S. economic blockade even before the U.S. announced additional restrictions on Aug. 5. Last month state-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela SA was importing Russian gasoline through Malta to relieve shortages, a slow and expensive route to the Caribbean nation.

Irregular Supply

Irregular fuel supplies have crippled mobility in a country where shortages of food and basic medical supplies have already caused a health crisis and led to one of the largest mass migrations of recent times.

PDVSA, as the state producer is known, has been directing most available gasoline to Caracas, where Maduro is most vulnerable to mass protests.

The Trump administration was hoping to swiftly chase Maduro out of power earlier this year and has criticized China and Russia for supporting what it considers a criminal and repressive regime.

Wison didn’t respond to an email or fax seeking comment on the refinery contract. PDVSA didn’t respond to emails and calls seeking comment.

The Chinese company hasn’t completed a contract it won in 2012 to overhaul the Puerto la Cruz refinery. Wison’s revenue from Venezuela sank 72% last year as the nation’s economic crisis deepened, according to its an annual report.

China and Russia have an interest in preventing the complete collapse of Venezuela’s oil industry because it’s the only way to recoup the tens of billions of dollars in loans and investments they have made in the past decade.

Wison’s deal also underscores how the oil-hungry Asian nation remains committed to Venezuela as a strategic location for foreign investment.

Economic Blockade

Restoring fuel production, if it happens fast enough, would weaken the U.S. economic blockade and put Maduro in a stronger negotiating position as talks with the opposition drag on without any visible progress.

Despite Venezuelans’ widespread dissatisfaction with their government, divisions within the opposition are complicating the push toward a post-Maduro administration.

While about 50 nations recognize National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president, China has declined to get involved in what it considers an internal conflict.

Venezuela’s refining industry, once a major supplier to the U.S. with 1.3 million barrels a day of capacity, has been in gradual decline due to theft, inadequate maintenance and a brain drain of qualified staff, and was hit by a series of major power outages this year.

In recent years, PDVSA hasn’t even been able to meet domestic gasoline demand that has historically been about 250,000 barrels a day.

The U.S. has so far shied away from military intervention in Venezuela and has instead imposed economic sanctions that target the oil industry and key members of the government and the military.

American officials continue to project confidence about replacing Maduro with a pro-business administration despite the lack of progress.

China rejects “foreign interventions and unilateral sanctions” in Venezuela, and supports dialogue between the government and the opposition, its embassy in Caracas said in a statement on May 12.

The embassy didn’t immediately offer additional comments when contacted by the business news agency.

China wants “to be identified with a friendly socialist government, especially in the backyard of the U.S.,” said Schreiner Parker, Rystad Energy’s vice president for Latin America.

“They have no guarantee that a regime change will necessarily mean that they’re going to be repaid.”

Source: Belt & Road News

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thomas malthaus
thomas malthaus
3 months ago

A US naval air and sea blockade doesn’t guarantee this refurbishing is successful.

CHUCKMAN
3 months ago

I just don’t see a blockade since both China and Russia have legitimate interests in Venezuela.

Of course, Bolton is a lunatic, so bets are off, but that would be an extremely provocative and dangerous thing to do.

At least, up till now, all the brutal measures taken are aimed at Venezuela itself and not anyone else.

thomas malthaus
thomas malthaus
3 months ago
Reply to  CHUCKMAN

I think the president should spend more time keeping the US economy and the currency from drowning.

Ron Wheeler
Ron Wheeler
3 months ago

I think propping up the US standard of living is achieved by stealing and land grabbing from other nations. This has been historically documented.

thomas malthaus
thomas malthaus
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron Wheeler

John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hitman.”

Mary E
3 months ago

Of course he should! But the insane US president isn’t into the improvement of anything in America except his financial bottom line..and those of his donors! This group in power in the US is out to control the world and with the US people in dire straits, it is easier for them to do just that…the US citizens are too busy trying to keep their heads above water…something their poltical rulers should be doing for the country…if they don’t, it is all over for the US, then what will those donors and other would be world rulers do with the worthless dollars they hold?? The Belt and Road project just continues on making profits for all the countries that have joined….while the US is going after other countries’ resources with military and economic schemes which don’t seem to be working…. so who do you think will be the economic survivor?? Im certainly not voting for the US!

thomas malthaus
thomas malthaus
3 months ago
Reply to  Mary E

I’m on my way out. I have “friends” elsewhere.

James Willy
James Willy
3 months ago
Reply to  CHUCKMAN

Can’t wait to see the yankz try to stop a China or Russia ship. Just hope they will STAND THEIR GROUND and FINALLY do something. Hard to say if they will now do something or just bend over like has been the track record for far, far too long now. When are we gonna see some action against gringos? Hello XI Jinping?????? pooh-tin????????

cap960
cap960
3 months ago
Reply to  James Willy

What sort of actions would you like to see? Never forget Yanks used 2 Abombs on civilians. Do you truly think they will hesitate to drop a third one? I don’t. Russia and China are calculating their moves so it doesn’t happen.,

John C Carleton
John C Carleton
3 months ago

The Rats, (CITY OF LONDON, BRITISH EMPIRE, ISRAHELL, USA/Washington DC), lie, murders, steals, bombs, attacks, invades countries to try to steal their wealth, natural resources, oil, land.

China does business with countries, and ends up, without violence, with all of what the Rats tried to steal with violence.

CHUCKMAN
3 months ago

A brilliant little plan.

And a nice summary of it.

Ah, there’s no end to human ingenuity, particularly when working against the plodding forces of imperialism.

Anti-Empire