September 29, 2017 / 9:45 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Puma Energy doubles fuel sales in Puerto Rico, expects lines to ease

(Adds quotes, context, details on operations)

By David Alire Garcia

MEXICO CITY, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Puma Energy has doubled its fuel sales to Puerto Rico’s gasoline stations and industrial customers, aiming to ease long lines for gas and diesel that have persisted since Hurricane Maria struck earlier this month, a top executive said on Friday.

The firm, which operates four terminals on the hard-hit Caribbean island and is one of the biggest fuel suppliers, is also working with the government to add more delivery trucks as a larger transportation fleet is needed to reach 244 working gas stations.

Another 60 stations damaged by the powerful hurricane, which killed 16 people and left most of the island’s 3.4 million residents without power and communications, will need to be rebuilt, Rodrigo Zavala, CEO of Puma Energy Americas, said in a phone interview from Puerto Rico.

“Before Hurricane Maria, we were selling 14,500 barrels per day in Puerto Rico... Yesterday, we dispatched 29,000 barrels,” Zavala said.

Puma’s terminals have enough inventories to last more than 60 days, Zavala added. The company, partially owned by commodities trading giant Trafigura, is also about to discharge tankers carrying gasoline, diesel and jet fuel after a seven-day pause at the U.S. territory’s ports.

“Our current problem is logistics. Before the hurricane, we were receiving electricity from transmission lines, now we’re consuming power that’s inefficiently generated and distributed to individual plants, hospitals and factories, which are consuming more than double what they did before,” said Zavala.

The hurricane also tore up roads and bridges, making it difficult to distribute fuel needed by power plants, hospitals, homes and businesses.

Among Puma’s main customers is Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which has been trying to restart power plants as well as transmission and distribution lines.

The executive expected lines for diesel and gasoline to ease by Monday, but the company is preparing its infrastructure for a long recovery period, including a larger truck fleet to satisfy growing demand for diesel needed for power generators.

“The challenge is to make available the enormous quantity of trucks that this new reality requires,” said Zavala.

Another oil terminal on the island, Buckeye Partners’ 4.6-million-barrel Yabucoa plant, reopened a truck facility earlier this week but has not resumed marine operations.

Neighboring Statia terminal, operated by U.S. NuStar Energy on the island of St. Eustatius, also remains closed after sustaining damage from Hurricane Irma, but it plans to fully reopen by mid-October. (Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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