Venezuelan crude sales to the U.S. fell to 25-year low in 2016

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Sales of Venezuelan crude to the United States in 2016 dropped to a 25-year-low due to falling exports of blends and upgraded oil from the country’s main producing region, according to Thomson Reuters Trade Flows data.

Crude oil drips from a valve at an oil well operated by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, in the oil rich Orinoco belt, near Morichal at the state of Monagas April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

Venezuela’s oil production fell to its lowest in more than two decades in 2016 and is expected to decline again this year due to lack of investment in exploration and production as well as payment delays to state-run PDVSA’s suppliers.

The production fall has affected exports to most PDVSA customers, including those in North America. The volume of shipments to the United States in 2016 was 718,365 barrels per day, lowest since 1991.

PDVSA’s refining unit Citgo Petroleum was the largest recipient of Venezuelan crude in the United States in 2016.

Valero Energy, Phillips 66 and Chevron Corp followed, but Venezuela’s overall export drop curbed their purchases since U.S. imports of Venezuelan oil are dominated by extra heavy grades produced in the vast Orinoco belt, which is facing limitations due to lack of diluents used to mix with those crudes.

Exports of Venezuelan crude to the United States slumped in October amid a shortage of imported crude and refined products to dilute the country’s extra heavy oil. A similar shortage, combined with mechanical problems at ports, affected shipments in the first half as well.

An accumulation of tankers around PDVSA ports waiting for payments to discharge oil imports created bottlenecks for refining, production and exports last year.

PDVSA’s Citgo Petroleum unit recently increased shipments of refined products to Venezuela, while loading crude cargoes at a terminal it now operates in the Caribbean island of Aruba, helping to ease the holdup.

The following is a table of Venezuelan crude sales to the United States from PDVSA’s ports and terminals, according to Reuters data:

Period Exports Number

(bpd) of cargoes

December 735,195 46

November 742,535 42

October 601,065 37

September 786,835 46

August 712,871 43

July 817,806 50

June 652,733 39

May 762,000 47

April 734,700 45

March 793,581 52

February 637,105 40

January 643,935 43

2016 718,365 530

2015 772,880 582

2014 733,000 N.A.

2013 755,000 N.A.

(This version of the story corrects date in the first graph, removes typo in the second graph)

Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Dan Grebler