PDVSA, Chevron turn Venezuela crude blending plant back into upgrader: document, source

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s Petropiar facility, a joint venture between state oil company PDVSA and Chevron Corp, is once again operating as a crude upgrader after several months working as a less complex blending facility, according to a document seen by Reuters and a source with knowledge of the matter.

The facility will once again produce Hamaca-grade synthetic crude for export at the plant, according to the document. Petropiar stopped producing Hamaca last year and had been making heavier Merey crude, mostly for the Asian market, since July.

Neither PDVSA nor Chevron immediately responded to requests for comment.

Petropiar once made up to 210,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) of Hamaca out of tar-like oil from the OPEC nation’s Orinoco belt, one of the world’s largest oil reserves. The extra-heavy crude must be upgraded or blended with lighter grades at facilities near the Jose terminal before being exported.

But PDVSA struggled to find markets for that grade after the United States, previously Venezuela’s largest customer, slapped sanctions on the company last year as part of Washington’s push to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has overseen a dramatic economic collapse along with a freefall in crude output.

It was not immediately clear if PDVSA had a client lined up for the Hamaca crude.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen; Editing by David Gregorio