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Venezuela's oil exports jumped in March, reaching the highest monthly average since August.
The increase came as Chevron ramped up its imports and as cargoes resumed after a brief export freeze.
Venezuela shipped 774,420 barrels of oil per day in March, with China as its biggest buyer.
The freeze of two export contracts, initiated by PDVSA boss Pedro Tellechea, halted deliveries to Hangzhou Energy and Adinius Sociedade de Servicios. These deliveries account for a significant portion of oil exports, and suggest that PDVSA could be consolidating its contracts.
The consolidation will play a critical role in the company's financial health, as the number of unknown firms and failed payments have been weighing on its cash flow.
With Chevron, Cuba's state company Cubametales, Iran's Naftiran Intertrade Co (NICO), and most of the oil byproducts continuing to flow without interruption during the freeze, PDVSA looks set to continue exporting at an increasing rate.
Eight very large crude carriers (VLCC) set sail from Venezuelan ports, easing a tanker bottleneck that had built up since early 2023. Chevron alone received about 115,000 bpd of Venezuelan heavy crude oil, which was exported to the United States, increasing from about 80,000 bpd in February.
PDVSA is conducting an extended audit of several other accounts receivable and supply contracts, including those of Geneva-based firm Maroil Trading, owned by Venezuelan shipping magnate Wilmer Ruperti, over outstanding debts from petroleum coke supply.
While Ruperti noted that the situation "was resolved,” the investigation is part of a widespread anti-corruption probe that has resulted in the arrest more than 40 officials and businesspeople, including powerful oil minister Tareck El Aissami, who resigned amid the investigation.
According to the 2022 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Venezuela has more proven oil reserves than any other country, with 304 billion barrels of proved reserves just ahead of Saudi Arabia's 298 billion barrels. Venezuela's heavy crude is particularly popular with U.S. refiners, who have previously relied on Russia's heavy crude.
While Chevron is currently the only oil company with approval from the U.S. to import crude oil from Venezuela, ConocoPhillips is also said to be contemplating selling Venezuelan crude oil to the United States. This may benefit the company, as it may offset some of the $10 billion Venezuela currently owes it.
Given the increasing need for oil globally, Venezuela's return to the market could not come at a better time.
It's still unclear what the future holds for Venezuela's oil industry. However, by remaining transparent and exposing any internal wrongdoings, PDVSA has the opportunity to win back trust globally from both the energy industry and investors.
By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com
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Michael Kern is a newswriter and editor at Safehaven.com and Oilprice.com,