By Alexis R. Milan
Venezuela, who ships fuel to Belize at preferential rates under PetroCaribe, has announced it is stopping shipments of premium gasoline to Belize. The government has responded by saying there is no need to worry, as consumers can simply use regular gasoline.
According to John Mencias, Alba PetroCaribe Belize Energy Limited’s (APBEL) deputy chairman, Belize is expected to receive two more shipments of premium gasoline from Venezuela in December as was agreed to. Venezuela also indicated that they will try to make a shipment of 20,000 barrels of premium gasoline in January, meaning the shortage would actually be felt in February, said Mencias.
Mencias added that the shortage is only temporary. According to Mencias, although Venezuela’s economic situation may have factored in the decision to cut the shipments, he was aware that the refinery was also experiencing operational problems. In fact, Mencias said, there have been previous delays of premium fuel shipments.
Mencias also said that he has been in contact with PUMA, Belize’s oil importer, and they have indicated they would be securing alternatives to ship premium gasoline, most likely from Guatemala, Santo Domingo or the Gulf Coast.
The government, however, is encouraging people to use regular gasoline because the quality of regular fuel Belize receives from Venezuela is “exceptional”. According to Mencias, before the PetroCaribe program, the average octane of regular fuel in Belize was around 85 but now the average octane of regular is between 87 and 89 compared to the premium, which has an average octane of 90.5.
Mencias assures that most vehicles in Belize don’t need premium gasoline and should do just fine on regular. Mencias added that the government prefers consumers to buy regular fuel sourced from Venezuela under PetroCaribe than to outsource premium fuel.