Cuba says will double Santiago refinery capacity

HAVANA, June 27 Fri Jun 27, 2008 9:19pm BST

HAVANA, June 27 (Reuters) - Cuba plans to raise the capacity of a refinery in the eastern city of Santiago to 50,000 barrels a day, more than double current output, the island's foreign investment minister said on Friday.

Minister Martha Lomas, speaking on Cuban television, said socialist ally Venezuela will pick up the tab, but she did not say how much the expansion would cost or when it would be completed.

"The expansion of the Santiago de Cuba refinery with help from Venezuela will allow the doubling of production from that plant, with greater quality and efficiency," she said.

The plant, located about 500 miles (800 km) east of Havana, was a Texaco refinery before it was nationalized after Cuba's 1959 revolution.

With a current capacity said by Venezuela's PDVSA to be 22,000 barrels per day, it processes part of the 92,000 bpd Venezuela provides to Cuba under preferential financial terms.

Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, has become Cuba's biggest benefactor and last year invested $150 million in modernizing a Soviet-era refinery en Cienfuegos, 150 miles (240 km) south of Havana.

The Cienfuegos facility has a capacity of 65,000 bpd, with plans on the boards to raise it to 150,000 by 2013. (Reporting by Rosa Tania Vald; writing by Esteban Israel; editing by Jeff Franks and Michael Christie)

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