Last month there were reports from Reuters and the Financial Times about a $6 billion investment project that the Chinese company CNPC would carry out, with financial backing from Venezuela, to more than double the capacity of the oil refinery at Cienfuegos (to 150,000 barrels per day) and to build a liquid natural gas plant there too.
Those reports were based on anonymous sources, and I have yet to see an on-the-record confirmation from any party in Cuba, Venezuela, or China.
Yesterday, the refinery was mentioned in Cuban media as being owned by a Cuban-Venezuelan joint venture. Vice President Ramiro Valdes visited, lauded its efficiency, and himself discussed the 150,000-barrel expansion plan – without mentioning China.
With Cuba awaiting renewed drilling in its Gulf waters by the consortium led by Repsol, one has to ask whether the Chinese know something we don’t know about Cuba’s oil future. 150,000 barrels per day would approximately cover Cuba’s energy requirements.
But the expanded refinery could be of use to China even if Cuba doesn’t strike it big. Former oil executive Jorge Pinon explains at Cuba Standard that China could use the refinery to process crude oil supplies it is acquiring from Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela.