Venezuelan Oil Flow Recedes

(Argus, 8.Apr.2021) — Venezuelan crude production fell back in early April after state-owned PdV diverted limited diluent and light crude from Orinoco heavy oil operations to its recovering refining sector.

Output from the Orinoco heavy oil belt declined from around 360,000 b/d in late March to less than 200,000 b/d in early April, according to PdV operational reports and four Orinoco division upstream officials.

PdV’s total official production was running at around 440,000 b/d as of 7 April including just under 200,000 b/d from the Orinoco division, 157,000 b/d from the eastern division comprised mainly of the Furrial and Punta de Mata operating areas, and about 80,000 b/d from PdV’s western division around Lake Maracaibo.

The government has instructed PdV to prioritize gasoline and diesel production to ease fuel shortages which have disrupted food distribution, electricity generation and agricultural activity, a senior oil ministry official said.

The diesel deficit has aggravated power outages in Caracas and other cities as the onset of Venezuela’s dry season puts more strain on the precarious national grid. The latest widespread blackout was unfolding across the country this afternoon.

PdV’s 190,000 b/d Puerto La Cruz refinery which had been out of service for more than four years was restarted on 3 April and is processing about 70,000 b/d of Mesa and Santa Barbara light sweet grades.

Until late March, PdV was using the light crude for Orinoco operations. The oil belt’s 8-10°API crude requires naphtha for transport and processing into blended or synthetic grades for export.

Thin stocks

Limited naphtha stocks that PdV was using as diluent have been diverted to PdV’s downstream operations to boost fuel production.

PdV has also have restarted four distillation and four VGO units at the 940,000 b/d CRP refining complex which as of this week is processing almost 230,000 b/d, including over 129,000 b/d at the 635,000 b/d Amuay refinery and 99,700 b/d at the 305,000 b/d Cardon refinery.

The three CRP and Puerto La Cruz refineries have boosted PdV’s fuel output from this week to about 70,000 b/d of gasoline and 80,000 b/d of diesel, a senior CRP manager tells Argus.

PdV also expects to restart the 140,000 b/d El Palito refinery in Carabobo state by the end of April. El Palito has been down since end-2017 and more than 20 attempts over the past year to restart its distillation units and 61,500 b/d fluid catalytic cracker have failed.

“We are optimistic for the first time in three years that Venezuela’s fuel deficit will shrink significantly by the mid-year,” the CRP manager said.

The oil ministry estimates national demand for gasoline and diesel at about 100,000 b/d and 110,000 b/d, respectively.

PdV expects to import more naphtha in April and May to restore Orinoco output with the aim of achieving about 650,000 b/d of national production by June, the ministry says.

Caracas routinely blames US sanctions for undermining its oil industry.