Monday, March 28, 2016

Global Oil Power Venezuela Suddenly Has a Thirst for U.S. Crude

 Venezuela, owner of the world’s largest crude oil reserves, suddenly has a deep thirst for American oil. The state-owned oil company, has ordered millions of barrels of crude from the US this year, according to published reports and data provided to Bloomberg, in a sign of how the lifting of the ban on US oil exports last year has scrambled world energy markets.

The South American country has long had frosty relations with the United States. Still, it has ordered 500,000 barrels of US crude from oil trader PetroChina, Reuters reported. That’s on top of 5.4 million barrels of benchmark WTI oil it ordered and at least 1 million barrels shipped this month to PDVSA’s refinery in nearby Curacao.

PDVSA, despite having access to the world’s largest petroleum reserves, according to the BP statistical review, uses lighter crude from abroad to blend with its heavier production. In 2015, the company imported about 40,000 b/d from countries including Russia, Nigeria and Angola, according to Bloomberg. Now, that’s increasingly coming from the US, where the ban on exporting most oil was lifted in December.

At the end of January, PDVSA received its first cargo of 548,000 barrels of WTI in Curaçao, two people familiar with the shipment said at the time. Earlier this month, the company issued a tender for 12 million barrels of crude from April to June, including WTI, Russian and Nigerian oil. Last week, the oil tanker Orpheas was said to be en route to Curacao from the US, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg and a person familiar with the matter. The vessel is a Suzemax tanker, with a typical cargo capacity of 1 million barrels.

It’s a reversal from the past. Venezuela exported about 800,000 barrels of crude a day to the US in 2015, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Venezuela was trying to figure out a way to use US crude even before the export ban was lifted, said Francisco Monaldi, a fellow at Rice University. PDVSA’s own production of lighter oil has cratered in in recent months along with the rest of the country’s economy.


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