America Supplies OPEC With Oil Freed From 40-Year Export Ban

Inside the Economic and Political Influences on Oil
  • State oil company PDVSA uses imported crude for blending
  • U.S. ended export restrictions last year after shale boom

The U.S. is now supplying OPEC with crude oil, sort of.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA received a cargo of West Texas Intermediate crude at the end of January at a terminal on the island of Curacao, where PDVSA operates a refinery, according to two people familiar with the shipment. It was the first delivery since export restrictions on U.S. crude were lifted last year.

While Venezuela maintains frosty diplomatic relations with the U.S., with President Nicolas Maduro frequently accusing the country of plotting to sabotage his government, oil links between the two countries remain strong. The country exported about 800,000 barrels of crude a day to the U.S. last year, according to the Energy Information Administration. During the polar vortex in early 2014, PDVSA’s Citgo Petroleum Corp. teamed up with Citizens Energy Corp. to provide heating oil to low-income households in 25 U.S. states.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, despite having access to the world’s largest petroleum reserves, uses lighter crude from abroad to blend with its heavier production. In 2015, the company imported about 40,000 barrels a day from countries including Russia, Nigeria and Angola, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“They’re desperate, they’re really desperate,” said Carl Larry, head of oil and gas for Frost & Sullivan LP. “It’s well known PDVSA has had issues running their refineries in recent years. It really raises a red flag about their economic situation and where their oil company is situated."

Stagnant Output

Output in Venezuela, the sixth-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has risen by just 16,000 barrels a day in the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, compared with more than 1.1 million in the U.S. Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino is visiting major oil exporters such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, seeking to persuade them to reduce output and support prices.

PDVSA didn’t return a call for comment.

The cargo was 548,000 barrels of crude, Matthew Smith, director of energy research company ClipperData, said by phone from New York. It arrived at Bullen Bay, Curacao, on the tanker Eagle Kuantan, according to one of the people familiar with the shipment, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The tanker loaded from Nederland, Texas, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

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