LONDON/HOUSTON (Reuters) - Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA has bought two 1-million barrel cargoes of Nigerian crude from Royal Dutch Shell in the past month to be used as diluents for its extra heavy oil, traders told Reuters.
Venezuela, which has the world’s largest crude reserves, began importing a variety of crudes for the first time last year, using them to dilute the OPEC nation’s heavy grades in order to reduce costs and create better blends for customers.
PDVSA imported some 4 million barrels of Algerian Saharan Blend crude from October to January under a supply contract with state-owned Sonatrach during the maintenance of a heavy-crude upgrader, which it says saved $10 to $20 a barrel. It is also buying Russian Urals crude for its Isla refinery and a storage terminal on the Caribbean island of Curacao.
Now the company is tapping West African oil, which is usually light and has a lower sulfur content than other regional or European grades.
PDSVA purchased one cargo of Bonny Light last month and was seeking a second one for July, according to one trade source close to the deal. The second cargo it purchased, also from Shell, contained Bonga medium crude, another trader said.
Neither of the cargoes had arrived to Venezuelan ports as of July 5, according to PDVSA internal reports. Widespread delays to load Bonny Light were reported at some Nigerian ports in June, pushing at least four cargoes into early July.
But one West African crude cargo on tanker DHT Target was unloaded the last week of June in Curacao. The tanker Dimitris P, loaded on June 23 at Qua Iboe terminal in Nigeria, is also on its way to PDVSA’s storage facility Bullenbay in the Caribbean island, according to ThomsonReuters vessel tracking data.
It was not immediately clear the type of crude and volume delivered in Curacao.
Shell and PDVSA declined to comment.
PDVSA, which also imports naphtha as diluent, recently revealed talks on a plan to blend Venezuela’s heavy crude with light oil from other OPEC allies, seeking to compete against swelling U.S. and Canadian supplies.
One of the traders said Shell and PDVSA are discussing possibly swapping Venezuelan medium blends for the Nigerian supplies, which would reduce PDVSA’s credit needs.
Nigeria’s crude will also let PDVSA diversify its portfolio of exports by creating new blends, as well as reducing the need to buy pricey naphtha on the open market.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; Editing by Leslie Adler
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