The oil-rich nation of Venezuela is producing its lowest output of oil in 75 years, according to the petroleum economist and professor at the prestigious Central University of Venezuela Rafael Quiroz.
In an interview with El Impulso, Quiroz revealed the result of a recent analysis of Venezuela’s six largest oil refineries, all owned by the state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA), that found them capable of producing 1,300,000 barrels of oil every day.
The refineries – located in Amuay, Cardón, Bajo Grande, El Palito, Puerto La Cruz and San Roque – are currently producing just 8.5 percent of that capacity.
Barely 205,000 barrels of engine oil, grease, diesel, gasoline and fuel oil are currently being produced every day, forcing Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime to import fuel from allies such as Russia and China to meet nationwide demand.
The situation worsened last week when the refineries of the Paraguaná Refining Center (Amuay, Cardón, and Bajo) came to a standstill. Of those three, Amuay currently has an output of five percent of its total capacity, equivalent to around 34,000 barrels per day (bpd).
With output now at 205,000 bpd nationwide, the PDSVA’s output has now fallen to levels last seen in 1945 when Isaías Medina Angarita was president. The company also now own has seven operating ships and 26 drills, severely limiting the speed at which oil can be extracted.
Furthermore, the PDSVA currently has outstanding debts of $85 billion, for which Russia and China are the only the providers receiving some form of reimbursement. Payments to outsourced national and international companies (suppliers, drilling service providers and others) have been suspended indefinitely.
The company’s demise can be traced back to the rise of socialist dictator Hugo Chávez, who nationalized PDSVA before putting it in the hands of inexperienced socialist allies, leading to chronic efficiencies. This, combined with the exodus of experienced employees, has crippled the country’s oil output.
According to Quiroz, PDSVA would need an investment of around $250 billion over the next ten years in order to turn things around and return to the 3.2 million bpd that the company was producing when Chávez took power in 1998.
Despite having the second-largest oil reserves in the world after the United States, shortages of gasoline have in recent years become part and parcel of life for ordinary Venezuelans. Last month, motorists in the capital of Caracas, a city whose oil shipments are usually prioritized, rang in the new year with widespread gasoline shortages because the PDSVA failed to distribute supplies to fuel stations on time.
Since March last year, Venezuelans have also faced repeated power cuts that have crippled its basic ability to function, forcing the closure of schools, hospitals, and other essential public services. Maduro has repeatedly blamed the blackouts on a supposed U.S.-led attack on the country’s electrical grid aimed at weakening his authority, although he has never provided any evidence for such claims.