Venezuela's PDVSA restarts cat cracker unit at Cardon refinery -sources


Adds request for comment to PDVSA, background

Sept 21 (Reuters) - Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela PDVSA.UL has restarted the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit at its 310,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Cardon refinery, which is critical for gasoline output, three people familiar with the matter said.

One of the people, union leader Ivan Freites, said on Monday the plant restarted over the weekend and was capable of producing around 25,000 bpd of gasoline, at a time of acute fuel shortages in the crisis-stricken OPEC nation.

PDVSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Venezuela's once-formidable 1.3 million bpd refining network is mostly halted after years of underinvestment and lack of maintenance. PDVSA has doubled down on restarting gasoline output this year after the United States tightened sanctions on the company, complicating its ability to import fuel.

The sanctions, designed to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, have forced the South American country to turn to fellow U.S. foe Iran for fuel. A second group of Iranian gasoline tankers are currently en route to Venezuela, after earlier deliveries in May and June.

Cardon's FCC unit has been halted since July, though it had been producing some gasoline from its naphtha reformer unit in August.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas Editing by Nick Zieminski)

((; +58 424 133 7696; Reuters Messaging: Twitter: @cohenluc))

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