Operations at the Esmeraldas petroleum refinery will be suspended for 30 days early next year for repairs to key machinery. The shut-down will not affect the availability of gasoline and diesel fuel, the government said Monday.
“We are experiencing critical levels of overheating in the Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCC), which is the central unit in the refining process,” said Energy Minister Carlos Perez. “If the FCC doesn’t function, the refinery cannot produce gasoline, diesel or gas for the domestic market,” he said.
Perez said other mechanical problems will also be repaired during the shut-down, which he said would probably be scheduled for March. “The unit that removes sulfur from diesel fuel is not functioning properly and we have problems with our electricity generation plant and leaks in some of the petroleum tanks.”
The suspension of refinery operations, estimated to be 30 days, will not affect fuel supplies in the country. Perez said. The shortfall will be made up with imports, mostly from Chile and Peru.
The Esmeraldas refinery produces about 64% of all fuel used in Ecuador, or the equivalent of 153,008 of the 239,200 barrels needed per day.
Perez said that the repairs would be paid for from the general 2018 budget.