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Caribbean Trade & Economy

Why buid a refinery in the Caribbean?

Author: Arjun Dave
Last Update: 7:07 AM ET July 23 2011

The Caribbean region imports approximately 150,000 barrels a day of motor gasoline, 35,000 barrel a day of jet fuel and 200,000 barrels a day of distillate duel. The region also imports 4,000 tons of coal for its power plants and 45 billion of cubic feet of natural gas. The imports of coal and natural gas surged four times in the last ten years.

Rank Country imports (Thousand Barrels per Day)

1 Virgin Islands, U.S. 425.00
2 Netherlands Antilles 237.00
3 Aruba 227.00
4 Trinidad and Tobago 95.00
5 Cuba 46.00
6 Puerto Rico 40.00
7 Dominican Republic 26.00
8 Jamaica 23.80
9 Martinique 17.00
10 Nicaragua 17.00
11 El Salvador 16.00

Oil Refining

The Caribbean region has a combined refining capacity of 1.7 million barrels a day but operates at between 70% and 80% of its installed capacity.

The smaller refineries are processing crude for local demands of the island and larger facilities at U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba and Curacao are largely sending their refined products to the U.S.

The largest refinery in the Caribbean is the Hovensa facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands with crude distillation capacity of 500,000 barrels a day. Hovensa is a joint venture of PdVSA and Amerada Helss.

The second largest refinery is with a capacity of 320,000 barrels a day in Curacao, the Netherlands Antilles that is owned by Curacao government and leased by PdVSA for less than $20 million a year.

Jamaica has crude oil refining capacity of 50,000 barrels a day but only manages to process 30,000 barels a day.

U.S. has been the largest destination for many of these refined products but the exports have declined substantially in the last three years. The exports in 2009 declined to 390,000 barrels to the U.S. from 425,000 barrels a day in 2007.

According to media reports, a proposed $2 billion refinery near St. Elizabeth, Jamaica has entered advanced planning stages. Project sponsor Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) has stated that the facility will have an initial crude refining capacity of 250,000 barrels a day.

PCJ has also reached an agreement with PdVSA for a $300 million revamp of its Kingston refinery that would increase distillation capacity by 15,000 barrels per day, add a coke-fired co-generation plant, and improve the quality of refined products produced there.

Most refineries in the region were built between 30 years and 40 years ago.


Cuba has gained lot of attention in the last five years as the prospect of oil discovery in the North Cuban Basin has improved on better technology. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates undiscovered oil reserves in the basin of 4.6 billion barrels, nearly 1,000 years of current Cuban oil production.

Cuba Petrol also known as Cupet estimates off shore oil reserves of 20 billion barrels, however so far no new oil wells have been drilled in the last five years. Spain based Repsol and seven other companies are expected to drill oil at the end of 2012. According to the Cuban government, China is preparing an offshore platform that will be ready in October and seven companies from Venezuela, Spain and Italy, Cuba and China are expected to drill test wells.

Cubas oil production has increased to 48,000 barrels in 2009 and 2010 from 13,000 barrels in 1988. Cuba consumes 152,000 barrels of oil which is provided by Venezuela under a special agreement.

Most of the Cuban oil is produced in the northern Matanzas province but required special technique to process heavy and sour crude.

Oil storage

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