Oil and Gas

Venezuela Nov crude output jumps to highest level since U.S. tightened sanctions -sources

CARACAS, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s crude output in November jumped more than 20% from the prior month to the highest level since the United States tightened sanctions on state oil company PDVSA in August, two people with knowledge of PDVSA data said this week.

November output averaged between 926,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) and 965,000 bpd, according to the people, compared with the 761,000 bpd average in October that PDVSA reported to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). That increase came as exports jumped to over 1 million bpd.

That marked the first time that Venezuela’s output exceeded 900,000 bpd since August, when Washington warned foreign firms continuing to work with PDVSA that it could sanction them. The Trump administration first sanctioned PDVSA in January as part of its push to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

That led many companies, particularly in China, to avoid buying Venezuelan crude, prompting a rise in domestic inventories and causing PDVSA to cut back output.

Exports rebounded in November as major customers like India’s Reliance Industries and Spain’s Repsol stepped up shipments, allowing PDVSA to drain stocks and ramp up production.

PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

OPEC is expected to release its monthly report for November on Wednesday. The figures PDVSA has directly reported to OPEC each month this year have consistently been above estimates by secondary sources cited by the organization.

Production in Venezuela’s extra-heavy Orinoco oil belt averaged between 465,000 and 502,000 bpd in November, the people said. The Petropiar joint venture between PDVSA and Chevron Corp led the way with 120,900 bpd of output, one of the people said.

The Sinovensa project between PDVSA and China’s CNPC averaged 87,200 bpd, while the Petromonagas joint venture between PDVSA and Russia’s Rosneft averaged 66,500 bpd.

Oil exports continued at a brisk pace during the first week of December, Refinitiv data showed, even as three of PDVSA’s four crude upgraders - needed to convert Orinoco crude into exportable grades - remained offline.

The Petropiar upgrader, currently acting as a less-complex blending facility, produced 145,000 barrels of Merey crude grade on Monday, according to a document seen by Reuters. The Sinovensa blending facility, which also produces Merey, produced 94,000 barrels.

Reporting by Luc Cohen in Caracas, Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo; Editing by Bill Berkrot