October 2, 2019 / 11:17 AM / 15 days ago

Venezuelan oil exports rise, but not enough to drain stocks

(Reuters) - Venezuela’s oil exports ticked up in September from the previous month, but not enough to reduce high inventories that have forced the country to pare its output, according to Refinitiv Eikon and PDVSA internal data.

FILE PHOTO: Oil facilities are seen on Lake Maracaibo in Lagunillas, Venezuela May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Isaac Urrutia

Fewer buyers have been taking Venezuelan crude amid U.S. efforts to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro. In August, the United States expanded its efforts to punish non-U.S. firms “materially assisting” Maduro. Those sanctions cut the number of tanker operators willing to load at Venezuelan ports, contributing to swelling inventories. [nL3N26939V]

State-run PDVSA and its joint ventures last month exported almost 845,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and refined products versus 770,000 bpd in August, the second-lowest monthly figure this year, according to the data.

Higher shipments to political ally Cuba and the release of cargoes that had been stalled in Venezuela for months due to an earlier round of sanctions contributed to the latest increase.

(GRAPHIC - Venezuela's oil exports tick up in September: here)

Russia’s state-run oil company Rosneft (ROSN.MM) reduced its uptake of Venezuelan crude to about 360,000 bpd compared with more than 500,000 bpd in August, the data showed, as Rosneft-chartered vessels with Venezuelan oil have sat for weeks off the coast of countries including India and Malaysia.

Crude stocks ended the month at around 38.8 million barrels, almost 3 million more than at the end of August, according to data intelligence firm Kpler. Venezuela’s oil storage capacity is about 65 million barrels, but many tanks are inactive due to lack of maintenance.

CHINA, EUROPE AND CUBA

Vessels bound for China accounted for 32% of September exports, or 270,000 bpd. Europe was the second most-favored destination with 19%, and Cuba rose to third with 17%, or almost 143,000 bpd, more than double the volume it took in previous months.

PDVSA increased exports to Cuba last month to help ease acute fuel shortages that sparked long waits at gas stations and for public transport. [nL2N26G138]

The United States has been seeking to increase pressure on Maduro’s administration to try to dislodge him from power after a 2018 re-election that was widely considered a sham.

At least five crude cargoes on tankers chartered by U.S. Chevron Corp (CVX.N) that had remained stuck in Venezuelan waters since late January were returned last month to PDVSA. Some of the vessels loaded again with exports bound for Europe, the Refinitiv data showed.

Venezuela last month imported 161,000 bpd of refined products for its own consumption and to re-export, down from August’s 210,000 bpd even though the country’s own fuel output fell due to frequent refinery outages. Rosneft and Spain’s Repsol (REP.MC) were the main suppliers of the imported fuel, according to the data.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga and Mircely Guanipa; editing by Richard Pullin

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