(EnergyAsia, June 28 2011, Tuesday) — A subsidiary of state-owned China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) is expected to start work on expanding and upgrading the antiquated 65,000 b/d Cienfuegos refinery in Cuba.

Haunqiu Contracting and Engineering Corp will team up with Cuban-Venezuelan oil company Cuven Petrol SA and Technip Itali SA, a unit of the French engineering giant, to undertake the US$6 billion project.

The project was sealed during Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to Cuba earlier this month as part of his Latin America tour that included Uruguay and Chile.

The project along with oil exploration and production in the Central American state is part of a wider agreement between China and Cuba to expand trade and investment ties, said Cuba’s Ministry of Basic Industry chief Tomas Benitez. Bilateral trade reached US$1.8 billion last year, making China the second largest trading partner for Cuba.

China is keen to develop Cuba’s hydrocarbon reserves which comprise mostly heavy oil with high sulphur content. The two countries are also looking to jointly develop a two-million-tonne liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal.