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EIA: Venezuela Oil Sanctions Unlikely To Significantly Impact U.S. Refiners

The U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state oil firm PDVSA are unlikely to have a significant impact on the refinery runs of the U.S. refiners, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in an analysis this week.

U.S. imports of crude oil from Venezuela have been falling in recent years, and U.S. refiners have been replacing heavy crude from Venezuela from heavy crude grades from other sources, the EIA said.

Last week, the U.S. imposed sanctions on PDVSA to “help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said.

Those sanctions will essentially eliminate U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil as the full effects of the sanctions emerge, the EIA said, but noted that it doesn’t expect “any significant decrease in U.S. refinery runs as a result of these sanctions.”

Imports of crude oil from Venezuela are still a significant portion of the U.S. Gulf Coast imports, but they have been falling in recent years due to the collapsing Venezuelan oil production. Gulf Coast imports of Venezuelan crude oil fell to an average of 498,000 bpd between January and November 2018 from an average of 618,000 bpd in the first 11 months of 2017, the EIA said.

Out of the 14 U.S. refineries that imported crude from Venezuela last year—12 of which in the Gulf Coast—imports in January-November declined by 129,000 bpd compared with the same period in 2017. While imports from Venezuela declined, imports from Canada and Mexico to these refineries rose by 113,000 bpd and 48,000 bpd, respectively, from 2017 levels, the EIA has estimated.

“Moving forward, refineries may also choose to run lighter crude oils because transportation constraints may limit the availability of heavy crude oils,” according to the EIA.

Refiners with large capacity to process asphalt and road oils, for which Venezuela’s heavy crude is well-suited, may find it harder to procure adequate replacement, but these refiners have also cut imports from Venezuela recently, the EIA noted.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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