Caribbean Plugs into Electric-Car Revolution

(Trinidad Express, Sophie Hares, 7.Aug.2018) – With her foot down to show off the acceleration of the zippy electric car, Joanna Edghill spins around the car park before plugging the vehicle into a charging point beneath rows of solar panels converting Caribbean rays into power for the grid.

In the five years since she and her husband started their company Megapower, it has sold 300 electric vehicles and set up 50 charging stations plus a handful of solar car-ports on the 21 mile-long (34 km) island of Barbados.

Read the full story here.

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Shell calls in a BIG RIG

(Trinidad Express, Aleem Khan, 7.Aug.2018) – More hints that major discovery on the horizon.

Offshore Trinidad was one of two sites in the world where oil and gas service provider Rowan Companies plc debuted its ultra-harsh environment jack-up rigs, New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) investors heard last week. The other site was in the North Sea, offshore continental Europe.

Rowan president and chief executive officer (CEO) Tom Burke said: “While overall market conditions for offshore drilling remain challenging, demand for rigs has improved year to date. Since the beginning of the second quarter 2018, Rowan has been awarded contracts for both drillships and jack-up rigs.

Read the full story here.

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Venezuela Dodges Oil Asset Seizures

(Reuters, Marianna Parraga, Mircely Guanipa, 7.Aug.2018) – Reuters) – Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA has limited the damage from an unprecedented slump in crude exports by transferring oil between tankers at sea and loading vessels in neighboring Cuba to avoid asset seizures.

But the OPEC member nation is still fulfilling less than 60 percent of its obligations under supply deals with customers.

Venezuela has been pumping oil this year at the lowest rate in three decades after years of underinvestment and a mass exodus of workers. The state-run firm’s collapse has left the country short of cash to fund its embattled socialist government and triggered an economic crisis.

PDVSA’s problems were compounded in May when U.S. oil firm ConocoPhillips began seizing PDVSA assets in the Caribbean as payment for a $2 billion arbitration award. An arbitration panel at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ordered PDVSA to pay the cash to compensate Conoco for expropriating the firm’s Venezuelan assets in 2007.

The seizures left PDVSA without access to facilities such as Isla refinery in Curacao and BOPEC terminal in Bonaire that accounted for almost a quarter of the company’s oil exports.

Conoco’s actions also forced PDVSA to stop shipping oil on its own vessels to terminals in the Caribbean, and then onto refineries worldwide, to avoid the risk the cargoes would be seized in international waters or foreign ports.

Instead, PDVSA asked customers to charter tankers to Venezuelan waters and load from the company’s own terminals or from anchored PDVSA vessels acting as floating storage units.

The state-run company told some clients in early June it might impose force majeure, a temporary suspension of export contracts, unless they agreed to such ship-to-ship transfers.

PDVSA also requested the customers stop sending vessels to its terminals until it could load those that were already clogging Venezuela’s coastline.

Initially, customers were reluctant to undertake the transfers because of costs, safety concerns and the need for specialist equipment and experienced crew.

But PDVSA has managed to export about 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil since early July, up from just 765,000 bpd in the first half of June, according to Thomson Reuters data and internal PDVSA shipping data seen by Reuters.

That was still 59 percent of the country’s 2.19 million bpd in contractual obligations to customers for that period, and some vessels are still waiting for weeks in Venezuelan waters to load oil.

There were about two dozen tankers waiting this week to load over 22 million barrels of crude and refined products at the country’s largest ports, according to Reuters data.

“We are not tied to one option or a single loading terminal,” PDVSA President Manuel Quevedo said on Tuesday of the company’s exports. “We have several (terminals) in our country and we have some in the Caribbean, which of course facilitate crude shipping to fulfill our supply contracts.”

CUBAN CONNECTION

PDVSA has also used a route through Cuba to ease the impact of the Conoco seizures. That route is for fuel rather than crude.

The Venezuelan company has used a terminal at the port of Matanzas as a conduit mostly for exporting fuel oil, according to two people familiar with the operations and Thomson Reuters shipping data. Venezuela’s fuel oil is burned in some countries to generate electricity.

Two tankers set sail from the Matanzas terminal for Singapore between mid-May and early July, Reuters data showed. Each ship carried around 500,000 barrels of Venezuelan fuel, Reuters data shows.

In recent months, Venezuela has been shipping fuel to Matanzas in small batches, according to the data.

PDVSA and Cuba’s state-run oil firm Cupet have used Matanzas to store Venezuelan crude and fuel in the past but exports from the terminal to Asian destinations are rare.

That is in part because vessels that use Cuban ports cannot subsequently dock in the United States due to the U.S. commercial embargo on Cuba.

Cupet did not respond to requests for comment.

PDVSA has also used ship-to-ship transfers to fulfill an unusual supply contract it has with Cuba’s Cienfuegos refinery.

The refinery dates from the 1980s – when Cuba was a close ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War – and the facility was built to process Russian crude.

PDVSA typically uses its own or leased tankers to bring Russian crude from storage in the nearby Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao to Cienfuegos. But it is now discharging the imported Russian oil at sea in Cayman Islands’ waters via these seaborne transfers.

ConocoPhillips last month ratcheted up its collection efforts by moving to depose officials from Citgo Petroleum, PDVSA’s U.S. refining arm, arguing it had improperly claimed ownership of some PDVSA cargoes.

Citgo declined to comment.

ConocoPhillips is also preparing new legal actions to get Caribbean courts to recognize its International Chamber of Commerce arbitration award. If it succeeds in those efforts, it would be able to sell the assets to help satisfy the ruling.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Venezuela; additional reporting by Marc Frank in Havana; Editing by Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot

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Venezuela’s Oil Production Turning a Corner?

(FoxBusinss, Leia Klingel, 7.Aug.2018) – Oil production by Venezuela’s PDVSA may have started to improve, with the state-owned oil and gas producer reporting that production in the country is averaging 1.5 million barrels per day, as reported by Reuters.

As reported by OilPrice.com, according to OPEC secondary sources, Venezuela’s oil output fell to 1.34 million barrels per day in June, which, excluding a strike in 2002-2003, put production at its lowest point in almost seven decades.

As previously reported by FOX Business, the crisis in Venezuela can be attributed to the country’s socialist leaders overspending for years. Then, when oil prices collapsed, the drop in revenue made it impossible to keep the house of cards standing.

Now, oil prices have recovered and the country’s economic collapse has left it unable to capitalize.

Further, PDVSA President Manuel Quevedo confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that it is in talks with ConocoPhillips following its efforts to seize some PDVSA assets in the Caribbean.

Conoco won court orders allowing it to seize certain PDVSA assets in in the Caribbean to collect on a $2 billion arbitral award linked to Hugo Chavez’s 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets. Lack of investment in Venezuela’s oil industry is also being attributed to the production collapse.

If Conoco were to seize the assets, it could disrupt Venezuela’s oil export chain.

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Venezuela’s oil production has been on a steady decline since 1997 and the pace of the decline has recently accelerated. In 1997, Venezuela was producing about 3.2 million barrels of oil per day. Production hovered around 2.5 million barrels per day from 2002 to 2015, and then slumped, hitting 1.6 million barrels per day in January 2017.

Even if Venezuela’s oil production is starting to see signs of life, it will take a lot to rescue. The International Monetary Fund in late July said that as the country’s economic crisis worsens, inflation in the nation could swell to 1 million percent by the end of 2018.

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Venezuela Is Oil Market’s Bizarro World

(S&P Global Platts, Nastassia Astrasheuskaya, 7.Aug.2018) – Venezuela’s state oil and gas company PDVSA cut its debt to Russia’s top crude producer Rosneft by $400 million in the second quarter to $3.6 billion as of the end of June, Rosneft’s second-quarter results presentation showed Tuesday.

Rosneft agreed prepayment deals for crude and products deliveries with Venezuela between 2014 and 2016, the last of which is due to expire at the end of 2020. The company gave Venezuela a total of $6.5 billion in pre-payments, a Rosneft official said earlier this year.

Venezuela’s debt to the Russian major thus shrank by $1 billion in the six months since the end-2017 figure, according to the presentation.

Rosneft reported in May that Venezuela had paid off $600 million of debt in the first quarter. The Russian company also said it reduced crude purchases from the Latin American country in the first three months of the year.

With the Venezuelan economy moving downhill and its oil industry crumbling in recent years, PDVSA told customers earlier this year it was not able to fully meet its supply requirements. Due to provide Rosneft with 222,000 b/d of diluted crude oil, or DCO, PDVSA only had 116,000 b/d available in June, a PDVSA source said earlier.

In the face of crushing debt, crumbling infrastructure, worker unrest, hyperinflation and US sanctions, Venezuelan oil output dropped by 670,000 b/d in a year to 1.24 million b/d in July, according to S&P Global Platts OPEC survey. This is the lowest level in the 30-year history of the Platts OPEC survey, except a debilitating worker strike in late 2002 and early 2003.

With economic hardship, Russia and Rosneft have provided extensive economic support to Venezuela and PDVSA in recent years.

Late last year, Russia’s finance ministry agreed to refinance Venezuela’s $3.15 billion loan, extending the payment period to 2026 and introducing more favorable conditions on servicing the loan.

Rosneft also has stakes in upstream projects in Venezuela, including five oil projects: Petromonagas, Petrovictoria, Petroperija, Boqueron and Petromiranda, which together account for around 4% of Venezuela’s overall production, according to the Russian company.

Crude reserves at the projects are estimated at over 20.5 billion mt. Late last year, Rosneft also agreed to develop two offshore gas licenses in the country.

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US Abandons Sanctions to Avoid Owning Venezuela Collapse

(S&P Global Platts, Brian Shield, 7.Aug.2018) – Just more than a year ago, it was not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when.’

As Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolas Maduro consolidated power in an election derided as a fraud by the international community, the Trump administration readied exacting sanctions on the South American nation’s oil sector.

“All options are on the table,” said a senior administration official during a July 2017 briefing with reporters, adding that sanctions could be imposed in a matter of days. “All options are being discussed and debated.”

Analysts widely expected sanctions on diluent the US was exporting to Venezuelan refineries first, followed by a prohibition, perhaps phased in over a matter of months, on imports of Venezuelan crude into the US. It was unclear if US refiners, who had long imported Venezuelan crude, would be allowed to continue under an interim “grandfathered” arrangement, but analysts mostly agreed that sanctions were coming.

At the time, the US was importing about 800,000 b/d of Venezuelan crude and the administration was mostly concerned about the impact an import embargo would have on US Gulf Coast refineries, which would need to look for new sources of heavy crude.

Oil sector sanctions from the US seemed so likely that then-US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that the administration was looking at ways to soften the impact of the sanctions once they were imposed.

“We’re going to undertake a very quick study to see: Are there some things that the US could easily do with our rich energy endowment, with the infrastructure that we already have available – what could we do to perhaps soften any impact of that?” Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, said.

A year later, the US is importing less crude from Venezuela (about 530,300 b/d in July, according to preliminary US Customs data), but Gulf Coast refiners, particularly Valero, continue to rely on these imports.

In fact, US refiners may be importing even more, if Venezuela’s oil sector was not seemingly in a death spiral. Roughly one if every five barrels of oil imported by US Gulf Coast refiners comes from Venezuela.

The EIA forecasts Venezuelan oil production to fall below 1 million b/d by the end of this year, down from 2.3 million b/d in January 2016 as joint ventures fall apart and PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, struggles to feed, let alone pay, its workers. PDVSA has notified international customers than it cannot fully meet crude supply commitments and the country’s active rig count has fallen below 30, according to Baker Hughes International Rig Counts.

By the end of 2019, Venezuelan crude oil output is expected to plummet to 700,000 b/d, making it likely that it will produce less than the US state of New Mexico.

“We’ve never seen an industry or a country collapse this fast and this hard,” said EIA analyst Lejla Villar in a recent interview with the S&P Global Platts Capitol Crude podcast. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”

Industry collapse

The downfall of Venezuela’s chief industry, coupled with International Monetary Fund predictions that inflation in the country will skyrocket to 1 million percent by the end of this year, have created an unusual scenario, in which Maduro may even welcome US sanctions on its oil sector. As Venezuela’s economy continues to unravel, leading to surging prices and rampant hunger, Maduro could try to pin the blame on sanctions.

“If you break it, you buy it,” said George David Banks, a former international energy and environment adviser to President Trump. “The White House doesn’t want to own this crisis.”

The US has sanctioned individuals in Venezuela, including Maduro; prohibited the purchase and sale of any Venezuelan government debt, including any bonds issued by PDVSA; and banned the use of the Venezuela-issued digital currency known as the petro. But oil sector sanctions are viewed as the most powerful penalty remaining and one the Trump administration is more hesitant than ever to use.

“There’s already a humanitarian crisis, but we don’t own that, the Maduro government owns that,” Banks said. “We don’t want to lose the people of Venezuela and you don’t want to pursue a policy that jeopardizes that.”

David Goldwyn, president of Goldwyn Global Strategies and a former special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs at the US State Department, speculated that it would take extreme action, such as a military assault on a civilian rebellion, for the US to now impose oil sector sanctions. “The system is collapsing and this administration does not want to own the collapse,” Goldwyn said.

The path ahead for Venezuela’s oil sector has, likely, never been less certain. And it remains to be seen what a full collapse of an economy looks like. It is clear, however, that the US wants to avoid blame for accelerating that collapse and has abandoned, at least for now, consideration of oil sanctions.

When Venezuela’s oil sector hits rock bottom, the US does not want to be accused of dragging it there.

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Venezuela Waiving All Taxes on Profits from PDVSA

(Energy Analytics Institute, Piero Stewart, 7.Aug2018) – Aside from wasting paper, more importantly, the recent Gaceta Oficial in Venezuela also has a decree from President Nicolas Maduro waiving all taxes on profits from state oil company PDVSA and the joint ventures for all of 2018.

Interestingly, the decree seeks to boost foreign investment in the oil sector and to “restore hydrocarbon production levels,” writes Caracas Capital Markets Managing Partner Russ Dallen in an emailed note to clients. This is not the first admission of failure to be revealed in the Gaceta Oficial you hold in your hands, he added.

“For those still entertaining thoughts that Venezuela was actually paying its debts and U.S. sanctions were holding the money up, we got this subdued understatement of Venezuela’s “decreased capacity to pay its international commitments” in the preambular material of the Constituent Assembly decree attempting to mind-meld the bolivar, petro and oil barrel price (relevant portion underlined in red),” wrote Dallen.

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