Decision Due Soon on Curacao Oil Refinery

United Press International

A decision on the future of this Netherlands Antilles island's Shell Oil refinery may rest on a proposal that will be on the table when Venezuelan and Dutch leaders meet in July, officials said Wednesday.

A refinery spokesman said that the Dutch government has proposed a crude oil agreement to ensure the survival of the facility and that it will be discussed when Venezuelan President Jaime Lusinchi and Holland's Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers meet in Caracas on July 15-17.

Details of the proposal were not disclosed, but pricing and supply of Venezuelan crude oil to the Shell plant is expected to dominate the bilateral talks.

Mils De Paula, a Shell spokesman, said the future of the facility would be "very dark" if Venezuela rejects the plan.

Venezuela is the main supplier of crude processed in Curacao. The refinery employs some 2,000 people and accounts for almost one-half of the island's revenue.

Shell claims operating losses in the millions and has made several demands of the Netherlands Antilles government to keep the plant running. One condition, a 15% pay cut for its workers, went into effect last weekend.

The company originally set a June 30 deadline for deciding whether to shut down the refinery but postponed any action until after the leaders meet.

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