* Contract with India will boost oil trade
* Lukoil will deliver the MTBE at the U.S. Gulf Coast
By Marianna Parraga
HOUSTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - State-run Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) awarded a tender to import up to 2.88 million barrels of alkylate from Indian refiner Reliance and another one to buy up to 8.64 million barrels of MTBE from Russian oil company Lukoil, traders told Reuters on Thursday.
The tenders, launched by PDVSA in late November to buy its annual supply of components for motor gasoline and intermediate fuels for mixing with heavy crudes, guarantees some 42,000 barrel per day (bpd) of products that the company will use during 2014.
The price agreed by PDVSA and Reliance for the alkylate is 23-30 cents per gallon over the U.S. Gulf Coast waterborne price, one of the traders said.
"It's an expensive price, but it is really difficult to find a provider for a whole year of alkylate supply," he said. The trader added that PDVSA received more than one offer for that tender.
PDVSA was not immediately available to comment.
Reliance and other foreign companies have been selling alkylate to PDVSA in recent years, mostly through occasional tenders on the open market.
The contract between PDVSA and Reliance deepens trade ties that have grown in recent years as an increasing supply of Venezuelan crude flows to India. According to PDVSA's official figures, crude sales to India doubled to 366,000 bpd in 2012 compared to 165,000 bpd the previous year.
The terms agreed with Lukoil for the purchase of up to 36 cargoes of MTBE (Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether), which is used to oxygenate gasoline, include that the product will be delivered from the U.S. Gulf Coast, the sources said. They did not detailed the price agreed.
A subsidiary in the United States of trading firm Noble Group provided MTBE to PDVSA in recent years. Even though Venezuela locally produces some volume of MTBE, it is not enough to formulate 300,000 bpd of motor gasoline demanded by the domestic market.
PDVSA this month said that is studying an increase in retail gasoline prices after 15 years without any adjustments - which makes the Venezuelan motor fuels the world's cheapest and leaves the state-run company with losses from heavy subsidies.
Venezuela imported from the United States an average of 87,000 bpd of refined products between January and September, compared to 70,000 bpd in the same period of 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
A severe explosion at its main plant, the 645,000 bpd Amuay at the Venezuelan western coast, has affected its refining network since August 2012, forcing it to increase purchases.