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US Imports Of Venezuelan Oil Still Trickling In

Tanker Venezuela

The United States has resumed—at least for the time being—oil imports from Venezuela, according to new data published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The United States saw a decrease in oil imports from Venezuela starting in week ending February 1 2019, when shipments fell to 345,000 barrels per day, from between 500,000 and 700,000 bpd earlier in the year. In earlier 2017 prior to any of the sanctions, Venezuela shipped over 1 million barrels per day to the US.

The United States has long relied on Venezuelan oil imports to feed its perfectly suited oil refineries with heavy oil.

In March, these shipments trailed off complete for a few weeks, then resumed sporadically in April. The first few weeks of May saw zero oil imports from Venezuela to the United States, as the US continues to sanction Venezuela to effect change by way of ousting Nicolas Maduro.

But for week ending May 17, oil shipments again resumed, in small quantity, to the tune of 49,000 barrels per day. The rogue shipment of oil to the United States means that the United States still hasn’t gone a whole month without taking any Venezuelan crude—ever.

US refiners are still able to complete the transactions with Venezuela’s PDVSA that they had contracted prior to the United States implementing sanctions in January, although they are obligated to place the funds into a separate account that PDVSA cannot access.

Prior to the sanctions going into effect, Chevron’s Pascagoula refinery, Citgo’s Lake Charles and Corpus Christi refineries, and Valero’s Port Arthur and St. Charles refineries chewed up more than 90% of all the Venezuelan crude oil that came into the United States.

The uncertainty around the rules for paying for the cargoes has caused quite the confusion, with some cargoes earlier stranded off the coast of Venezuela waiting for payments to clear. Citgo and Valero have proposed returning crude oil to Venezuela that had already been loaded prior to sanctions going into effect, and Chevron had previously tried to find a way to pay PDVSA for millions of outstanding barrels, according to Reuters.

It is unclear to whom the 49,000 barrels was delivered.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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