Diluent shortage curbs Venezuela's September oil exports, data shows

An oil tanker is seen at Jose refinery cargo terminal in Venezuela in this undated file photo.

HOUSTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Venezuela's oil exports last month sank to the lowest in almost a year, disrupted by a lack of diluents that led to sizable production losses at its main producing region, the Orinoco Belt, documents and tanker tracking data showed.

Years of mismanagement and U.S. sanctions have curtailed state-run Petroleos de Venezuela's ability to produce and import enough light crude and refined products to mix its extra heavy oil into exportable grades.

The shortage since August has kept the Orinoco under an emergency declared by PDVSA because of production setbacks at oilfields and blending stations, which also have created delays for shipping, according to company documents.

PDVSA and its joint ventures exported 414,000 barrels per day (bpd) in a total of 19 cargoes last month, a 34% decline from the previous month and the lowest since October 2020.

About two thirds of the cargoes sailed to Asia, the main destination of Venezuela's oil, while 77,500 bpd of crude and refined products headed to the Middle East, and 58,000 bpd were received by Cuba, President Nicolas Maduro's political ally.

PDVSA did not reply to a request for comment.

The Orinoco's output could bounce back soon. In late September, the Iran-flagged Dino I began discharging 2.1 million barrels of condensate to be used as a diluent by PDVSA's Petrolera Sinovensa, Petrocedeno and Petropiar joint ventures. read more

A second cargo of Iranian condensate is due to arrive in the coming weeks under a swap contract between PDVSA and National Iranian Oil Company expected to provide supplies for at least six months. read more

Iran, whose cooperation with Venezuela has deepened as both nations deal with U.S. sanctions, sent a smaller cargo of condensate in July, and from February through April provided gasoline for the fuel-thirsty South American country, whose refineries are working at a fraction of capacity.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Venezuela; editing by Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Focused on energy-related sanctions, corruption and money laundering with 20 years of experience covering Latin America's oil and gas industries. Born in Venezuela and based in Houston, she is author of the book "Oro Rojo" about Venezuela's troubled state-run company PDVSA and Mom to three boys.