Despite an investment of $2 billion in upgrades, President Lenin Moreno agreed Tuesday with Ecuador oil minister Carlos Perez that the government-owned oil refinery at Esmeraldas is in “critical condition.”
The center of a massive corruption scandal involving dozens of government officials and employees, the refinery will need to close for at least 45 days for emergency repairs, according to Perez. “It’s obvious that we did not get our money’s worth in the renovations we paid for.”
The major problem according to Perez, is the refinery’s catalytic fluid unit. “This is the central processing unit and it is not functioning as it should and the plant cannot operate without it,” he said. He estimated repairs will cost $400 million and that down-time will cost the country an additional $1.2 million a day.
The unit is Ecuador’s only oil refinery and processes most of the country’s gasoline.
Speaking to plant employees, Moreno said that corruption was responsible for most of the current problems. “What a pity that the bad behavior of a few has affected cost us so much money and damaged a fundamental sector of our economy,” he said, adding that greedy officials were too busy taking bribes to pay attention to the quality of the work being performed.
Among those convicted of taking bribes from construction contracts at the refinery was former energy minister Carlos Pareja. Vice President Jorge Glas, who was responsible for oversight of the country’s energy sector, has also been implicated in the scandal.