Oil now second-leading Cuban export - gov't report

Wed Jun 10, 2009 12:40pm EDT

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* Cuban oil exports were 22 percent of total in 2008

* Venezuelan joint venture driver of $880 mln in revenues

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, June 10 (Reuters) - Oil exports are now Cuba's second leading export, overtaking pharmaceuticals, and produced $880 million in revenues in 2008, according to a Foreign Trade Ministry report.

A table in the report, parts of which were seen by Reuters this week, said nickel accounted for 39 percent of exports, oil for 22 percent and pharmaceuticals 9 percent, followed by sugar and tobacco products each at 6 percent and other products 18 percent.

The government reported exports, excluding tourism and other services, were $4 billion in 2008, but has yet to publish any details.

Cuba consumes a minimum of 150,000 barrels per day in petroleum products, of which up to 92,000 bpd comes from regional energy giant Venezuela. The rest is pumped from the northwest coast along with natural gas for power generation.

Cuba has exported small amounts of the heavy crude it produces, but this would not account for the big jump in 2008 exports, local and foreign analysts said.

The analysts said a likely explanation would be exports from a joint venture refinery with Venezuela opened in December 2007, which processed 65,000 bpd in 2008 for local consumption and export to area countries.

Venezuela's state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) reported on Tuesday it delivered 115,000 bpd of crude and refined products to Cuba in 2008, of which 93,300 bpd were sold to Cuban state-run oil monopoly Cubapetroleo, or Cupet, and 27,500 bpd was PDVSA's equity share delivered to the refinery in Cienfuegos.

"Based on published data, the revenues seem to represent Cubapetroleo's equity share of the Cienfuegos Cupet-PDVSA joint venture refinery exports," said Jorge Pinon, former president of Amoco Oil Latinoamerica and researcher at the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy.

Under President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has become a close ally of Cuba, which is an enthusiastic supporter of Chavez's regional integration proposal, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, aimed at countering U.S. influence in the region.

As part of bilateral integration efforts, Venezuela is revitalizing Cuba's downstream operations and plans to use the island as a bridge to supply the Caribbean with crude and derivatives with preferential financing. (Editing by Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker)

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