The government’s Dos Bocas refinery in Tabasco began processing crude oil on Thursday, starting its first operational phase.
Officially called the Olmeca Refinery, the facility will process between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil, an amount 41% to 53% lower than the goal previously set by the federal government.
Energy Minister Rocio Nahle said that, to date, 1 million barrels of crude have been transferred from the Dos Bocas maritime terminal. A video posted to the Energy Ministry (Sener) social media accounts showed a Pemex worker opening a valve on Friday to begin the refining process.
Nahle stated that oil will recirculate through the refinery for 72 hours to stabilize the return circuits and acclimatize the temperature of the machines, which start at 60 degrees Celsius (140 F) before being increased to 145 C (293 F), then 250 C (482 F) and finally 350 C (662 F).
“We started with 11,000 barrels, with 5 kilos of pressure,” the Sener video said. “… Later, we are going to add diesel, which will arrive by ship.”
While the commercial start date was initially set for this month, state-owned oil company Pemex is no longer considering the refinery as part of its 2023 business plan. The project has faced significant delays and cost overruns, with the budget almost doubling from US $8.9 billion to more than US $16.9 billion.
The refinery was officially inaugurated in July 2022 even though it was not complete. President López Obrador previously said that the testing phase would begin in September 2022 and that the refinery would begin operations that December. In the same month, the federal government updated the start date to July of this year.
In May, an internal audit dismissed the possibility that it could begin operations this year, noting that no progress has been made in the construction of important elements of the combined distillation plant, which were expected to be complete in December 2022.
The refinery is not expected to become fully operational until 2026, according to Mexican energy analyst Ramsés Pech.
Despite promises that the refinery will run at its full capacity, it is rare for refineries to operate at 100%, for both logistical and safety issues. According to the newspaper El Economista, the Dos Bocas refinery will likely have a processing capacity of 272,000 bpd at its most efficient.
That is 80% of its total stated capacity, the newspaper reported.