Cuba’s Largest Thermoelectric Power Plant Offline Amid Depot Blaze

Cash-strapped Cuba was forced to take its largest thermoelectric power plant offline due to a multi-day blaze at a fuel depot in the northern part of the country. 

Bloomberg reported the Ministry of Energy and Mines said the 200 MW Antonio Guiteras thermo plant was disconnected from the grid because of a water shortage. A local media outlet said the fire at the nearby Matanzas industrial storage complex had used up the water delivery to the power plant as firefighters battled the blaze, affecting four of the facility’s eight storage tanks. 

We noted Monday that the communist country’s worst fear about the 2.4-million-barrel Matanzas terminal would be realized if the thermo power plant was shuttered. That’s because its generators, fed by heavy crude oil from the Matanzas complex, provide a fifth of the country’s power needs. It remains to be seen if crude flows from the damaged storage facility to the power plant have been affected. 

This disaster comes as power grid failures have been rampant due to fuel shortages, forcing grid operators to impose widespread energy blackouts in some areas of the country for up to 12 hours since May. 

The Union of Electrical Workers said the new power failure indicates only half the island’s 3,000 MW peak energy demand can be met on Monday. About 1,223 MW of generation is offline. 

Cuba struggled to keep the lights on even before the fuel depot fire amid power plant breakdowns and fuel shortages. Rolling blackouts have sparked protests. Compound the risk of more power blackouts with annual inflation soaring to 29% in June, and it’s a perfect recipe for more social unrest. 

Reuters said Cuban officials could expand floating storage capacity to handle imports that would normally be offloaded at the Matanzas complex. 

The fire at the fuel depot has exposed a critical bottleneck. Matanzas is Cuba’s only terminal that can handle fuel shipments from large crude tankers piped to power plants across the country. 

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