Venezuelan opposition leaders look to energy future without Maduro

FILE PHOTO: An oil pumpjack and a tank with the corporate logo of state oil company PDVSA are seen in an oil facility in Lagunillas, Venezuela January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Isaac Urrutia

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leaders said on Tuesday that the opposition-controlled congress was preparing to consider new energy legislation that would allow faltering oil production to recover with outside help.

Ricardo Hausmann, an adviser to congress chief and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, said at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston that legislation to reopen the oil industry to private companies would need to provide the nation a progressive share of oil revenue to succeed.

The legislation would reverse late President Hugo Chavez’s energy industry nationalization, allowing private companies a bigger role in Venezuelan oilfields and shrinking state-run oil company PDVSA, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

However, it is a largely symbolic move while President Nicolas Maduro remains in power.

Venezuela needs to open its oil industry to foreign investment, limiting the role of PDVSA, which currently controls all joint ventures in the OPEC-member nation, said Hausmann. The legislation would be considered by Chavez loyalists, opposition officials said.

A major power blackout affecting Venezuela over the last week knocked crude output to 670,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 1 million bpd, according to oilfield services provider Schlumberger NV.

The Venezuelan congress in February appointed new boards of directors for U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum. But U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela and PDVSA in late January blocked Citgo’s access to oil sold by its parent company as long as it remains under Maduro’s control.

Citgo had contingency plans to deal with the loss of Venezuelan oil ahead of sanctions, said its new Chairwoman Luisa Palacios.

Venezuela’s envoy to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, told Reuters the country had not yet asked Washington to protect Citgo from creditors, but said Citgo was “working on that issue.”

Reporting by Marianna Parraga, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien