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Venezuela to begin 20-day maintenance at smallest refinery - oil minister

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the headquarters of the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA in Caracas

By Tibisay Romero

YAGUA, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela has received all the parts it needs to begin a maintenance program at the 146,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) El Palito refinery, with work expected to take about 20 days, oil minister Pedro Tellechea said on Monday.

Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA in 2022 began receiving assistance from Iranian state firms to revamp its aging refineries.

Oil ministers from both nations last week checked the state of joint projects, including the repairs at El Palito, Tellechea told journalists during a tour of oil facilities.

El Palito, located in Venezuela's central region, is the smallest refinery in a 1.3-million-bpd-capacity network that also includes facilities in Paraguana and Puerto La Cruz.

Following a major revamp at El Palito that was completed in 2023, Iran and Venezuela planned repairs at the largest refining complex, the 955,000-bpd Paraguana.

A final contract has not been signed and Tellechea did not elaborate on the plans.

The U.S. last month said it would reimpose oil and gas sanctions on Venezuela in April unless Caracas lifted a ban on a leading opposition figure from running in presidential elections this year and complied with other conditions it committed to through an electoral pact signed last year.

"We are not looking for a conflict," said Tellechea, adding that Venezuela has asked for 100% of the sanctions in place to be lifted.

Venezuela, he said, had healthy inventories of domestically-produced fuel to avoid a scarcity of gasoline or diesel while El Palito suspends operations during maintenance.

PDVSA in January boosted imports of gasoline and naphtha, mainly from the United States. It also received a cargo of Russia-origin diesel, according to LSEG tanker tracking data.

The company also expects to complete this year the import of up to 600 fuel trucks to replenish its fleet, the minister said.

(Reporting by Tibisay Romero; Editing by Marianna Parraga, David Ljunggren and Nick Zieminski)