In Order To Keep Functioning, Cuban Factories Are Using Oil Residue

The Cienfuegos Petroleum Refinery sends the oil sludge to the cement factory for use as fuel. (@CanalCaribeCuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 July 2023 — The energy crisis that turns Cubans upside down has also forced state industries to look for alternatives to keep their boilers operating. This is the case of the Cienfuegos Cement factory, which uses oil sludge residue obtained from the oil refinery in this province, the largest in Cuba.

The general manager of the company, Irenaldo Pérez, explained to Prensa Latina this weekend that the provincial refinery transfers the waste resulting from the production of liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline, diesel, turbo fuel and fuel to the cement plant.

The official said that this waste can also be used in smelters and sugar mills — large consumers of fuel — which, precisely because of the widespread shortage on the Island, have had to stop their production lines repeatedly. Without detailing the volume of the sludge obtained from the oil plant, the official news agency assures that its use reduces the “considerable dependence on imported fuel” while compensating its environmental footprint by eliminating potential sources of pollution.

Cuba shows slow progress in the diversification of its power generation matrix, which is highly dependent on crude oil. The Government promised in 2014 that renewable generation — which at that time accounted for 4.3% — would represent 24% of the installed capacity by 2030, but by the beginning of 2022 it had barely reached 5%.

In addition to the energy crisis, Cuban families are facing greater interruptions in drinking water service. The provincial newspaper Periódico 26 acknowledged on Monday that Las Tunas shows one of the biggest delays on the Island in terms of the installation of the most effective equipment for water supply. In the province, 146 stations were expected to enter operations in October of this year, but the meager results to date — only 22 have done so — warn that this goal will not be met.

Of the few facilities, not all are in operation, warned Óscar Carralero, director of the Provincial Aqueduct and Sewerage Company of the province. The official explained that three of the new stations already have electrical problems due to control failures, and two cannot be activated because the networks have not received maintenance for years or are not available due to theft.

Therefore, the manager recognizes, they do not yet represent “improvements in the community,” which maintained the “dream of receiving water in the short or medium term in a stable way.”

In its report, Periódico 26 points out that several stations with a capacity of 10 kilowatts are being installed in remote areas with a small population, where families had reported that the pumping devices had been broken “years ago” and they could only receive water from tanker trucks.

However, the work is not progressing given the shortage of materials to make the assemblies for solar panels, said Marco Antonio Sánchez, a specialist of the Provincial Directorate of Aqueduct and Sewerage. They also don’t have enough fuel or means of transport to take the supplies to remote areas.

“We feel a little alone,” complained Sánchez, who explained that the authorities are committed to projects, but at the time of finalizing the assembly, they lack resources that depend on other industries. “Advancing like this is more complex,” he said.

The newspaper, however, is optimistic that, once the 146 stations are installed, there will be a savings of 73,000 kilowatts of electricity, and an improvement in water service for 11% of the households in the province.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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