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Is This The Beginning Of The End For Venezuela's Oil Sector?

Maracaibo Basin

I discussed in Prime Meridians this past weekend a $1.4 billion lawsuit brought against Venezuela state energy firm PDVSA. With the major this week filing a motion to quash the suit, which claims it illegally transferred billions out of the U.S. in order to duck a settlement.

And news this week suggests that PDVSA may badly need the money. In fact, it may already be too late for the firm — and perhaps the wider Venezuelan oil sector.

Oilfield union officials in Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo region leaked news to Platts that all is not well in the drilling sector here. With sources saying that major international operator Schlumberger has halted the majority of its operations.

Union leaders said that Schlumberger has shut down four of six rigs it was operating for offshore oil production in Lake Maracaibo. The reason being — a lack of payment for drilling services from PDVSA.

This shutdown looks to be somewhat of a “last straw” for PDVSA’s operations. After funding for drilling here appeared to come under stress earlier this year — when both Schlumberger and Halliburton said they were reducing rigs in Venezuela due to non-payment. At the same time, fellow drillers San Antonio and Petrex suspended a total of 36 rigs across Venezuela. Related: Why Saudi Arabia Continues To Pump Crude At Record Levels

But PDVSA had appeared to be making headway — with Schlumberger saying in June it had reached an agreement with the oil major to keep six rigs operational in the Lake Maracaibo area.

The fact that most of those drills have now been idled suggests that PDVSA’s last-ditch contract efforts have failed. Possibly signalling a significant cliff ahead for drilling across Venezuela — which could foreshadow an accelerated decline in production.

Such a downturn would have big implications for a) global oil supply, b) Latin American oil trade (including the U.S. Gulf Coast), and c) Venezuela projects, national finances, and politics. Watch to see if PDVSA can find a way to get the idled rigs restarted — and for news on further drilling shutdowns in the country.

Here’s to running dry.

By Dave Forest

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Leave a comment
  • GregSS on July 28 2016 said:
    I'd be surprised if Venezuela makes it to the end of the year without something major happening. Either a default on debt, or uprising over living conditions. The place is a powder keg.
  • conoco on July 28 2016 said:
    It will be a cold day in Caracas before an oil company invests in Venezuela.
  • Nicola Timmerman on July 29 2016 said:
    Notley and the other eco fascists will be so jealous!
  • Ofay on July 29 2016 said:
    Looks like no one wants to buy marxist dictated oil.

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