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Venezuela Restarts Crude Blending Operations As Upgraders Return Online

Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA has recently boosted its crude oil blending operations to a six-month high after some upgraders came back online, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing PDVSA documents it had seen.  

The so-called upgraders are used for blending Venezuela’s super-heavy crude to make it flow and ready for exporting.  

According to one PDVSA document seen by Reuters, the Petropiar upgrader, part of a venture with Chevron, produced 115,000 barrels of Hamaca crude on Tuesday. Another upgrader, Sinovensa in partnership with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), produced 158,000 barrels of Merey crude on that day.

It was unclear how long PDVSA could sustain the upgraders operational amid a lack of maintenance and investment, as well as operational issues such as power outages.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s crude and fuel exports hit 690,000 barrels per day (bpd) in September, Reuters reported last week, citing data from PDVSA and Refinitiv Eikon. This was Venezuela’s highest export level since April, despite the U.S. sanctions that seek to cut off oil revenues for Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

Venezuela’s exports have significantly slumped since the U.S. imposed sanctions on its crude oil exports in early 2019, essentially prohibiting U.S. refiners from buying Venezuelan crude, which was a large part of the imports of crude for U.S. Gulf Coast refiners.

U.S. sanctions have exacerbated the already dire state of the Venezuelan oil industry, which is suffering from years of mismanagement, corruption, lack of investment, and the inability of the financially weak state oil firm PDVSA to invest in new production or find customers willing to risk secondary U.S. sanctions if they purchase Venezuelan oil. 

Venezuela’s oil production and exports have been in freefall for several years, but the U.S. sanctions on its industry and exports, the crash in demand, and the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the decline.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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