Nonetheless, the Castro regime’s myopic strategic decision of switching from a fuel-oil fired system to the use of heavy, high-sulfur Cuban crude oil as a fuel source — promoted in order to save hard currency by limiting the import of fuel oil — has proven to be disastrous in the long term. Worn power plants, already in desperate need of modernization, have rapidly deteriorated by the burning of highly corrosive crude oil. The consequences of the Cuban government’s policy finally came to a breaking point in September 2004 when the Matanzas 330 MW plant was shut down due to equipment failure. (4) This policy, if it continues, will eventually collapse the country into total darkness.
International oil trading sources indicate that Cuban state-owned enterprises, Cuba Metales and Cupet, and Venezuela’s PDVSA, are evaluating various alternatives by which they would replace the highly corrosive heavy sour Cuban crude oil as power plant fuel in exchange for medium sulfur residual industrial fuel oil. Among the options being considered are increased runs of heavy Cuban crude oil in a revamped Cienfuegos refinery; a crude oil for residual fuel oil exchange agreement; or a crude oil processing agreement whereby Cuba would export its crude oil from the Matanzas superport to Venezuela’s leased Isla Refinery in Curaçao, and for a fee Cuba would receive in return refined products.