Venezuela's Oil Exports Remain Almost Unchanged, Middlemen Seek Deals

(Reuters) — Venezuela's oil exports remained almost unchanged in November at 651,000 barrels per day (bpd) even as an easing of U.S. sanctions is now allowing sales to trading houses, according to shipping and tanker tracking data.

Washington in October temporarily lifted oil sanctions on the country as a way to encourage a presidential election in 2024, which prompted spot sales of Venezuelan crude and fuel oil to traders mostly bound for China.

State company PDVSA also has recently negotiated cargo sales bound for India through intermediaries.

However, stagnant crude production, long-standing loading delays and some shippers' aversion to sending vessels to Venezuela are reshuffling exports to different customers, without increasing total volumes shipped.

A total of 40 vessels departed Venezuelan ports last month carrying an average 651,000 bpd of crude and fuels, and 434,000 metric tons of petrochemicals and byproducts. The petroleum exports declined 2.3% from October, while the byproducts increased from 229,000 tons the previous month.

Sales through intermediaries took 57% of total, while Chevron's exports of Venezuelan crude to the United States declined to some 144,000 bpd from 178,000 bpd in October, according to the data.

Venezuela's crude output averaged 786,000 bpd in October, according to official figures reported to OPEC, below a peak of 820,000 bpd in August, a target of 1 million bpd set for this year and an OPEC quota of 1.9 million bpd.

The stagnant production has driven PDVSA to offer trading houses and intermediaries a large portion of its oil stocks for exports.

PDVSA's heavy crude inventories from Venezuela's main production region, the Orinoco Belt, fell to 3.5 million barrels at the end of November, the lowest number so far this year, according to a company document seen by Reuters.

Analysts have warned that Venezuela will obtain little financial relief from the U.S. sanction easing, which allows the country to cash oil sales through mid-April, if PDVSA is unable to increase crude output and exports.

Besides seeking spot cash oil sales, PDVSA also has ramped up fuel imports since October. In November, the company discharged some 50,000 bpd of naphtha and gasoline blend stock supplied by Chevron and Spain's Repsol as part of U.S-authorized oil swaps.

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