Venezuela's PDVSA cuts output at crude upgrader, key fields as inventories rise

FILE PHOTO: A state oil company PDVSA's logo is seen at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

(Reuters) - Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela [PDVSA.UL] has halted operations at the Petropiar crude upgrader and stopped crude transport from its Petrosinovensa and Petromonagas projects, according to four people familiar with the matter and documents seen by Reuters.

The Petropiar upgrader, part of a joint venture with Chevron Corp that converts extra-heavy crude from the Orinoco oil belt into exportable grades, halted last Thursday due to high inventories, according to a document seen by Reuters and a person familiar with the matter.

Production at the Orinoco belt itself, home to one of the largest reserves of heavy crude in the world, has fallen to just 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) as collapsing exports due to U.S. sanctions on PDVSA prompt a spike in domestic inventories, according to oil workers union leader Ivan Freites and a second person who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Orinoco belt had been producing around 400,000 bpd in April and 300,000 bpd in early May, according to documents seen by Reuters.

“This is very serious, these are levels we have not seen before in Venezuela,” Freites said.

Chevron deferred comment to PDVSA, which did not respond to a request for comment.

With storage tanks nearing capacity, PDVSA last Friday halted crude pumping from Petrosinovensa and Petromonagas, two of the most productive projects in the Orinoco belt, to the facilities where the crude is blended into exportable grades according to a document seen by Reuters.

Petrosinovensa, which regularly produced upwards of 80,000 bpd earlier this year, produced just 16,000 bpd on Friday, according to a document seen by Reuters.

Reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Venezuela; Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Luc Cohen in New York; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by David Gregorio