Venezuela Wants To Overhaul State Oil Firm PDVSA

(Oilprice.com, Tsvetana Paraskova, 7.Sep.2018) — Venezuela has set up a commission that will be working to reshuffle and reorganize its state oil firm PDVSA in the next few months, according to the country’s Official Gazette on Thursday, in what would be the latest Venezuelan attempt to show that it is trying to revitalize its dying oil industry.

According to OPEC’s secondary sources, Venezuela’s oil production in July dropped to below the 1.3-million-bpd mark—at 1.278 million bpd, plunging 47,700 bpd from June. This compares with an average of 2.154 million bpd in 2016, and an average of 1.911 million bpd in 2017.

Some analysts expect Venezuela’s production to fall to below 1 million bpd by the end of this year.

Venezuela has been claiming lately that it plans to raise its oil production.

Last week, PDVSA said that it signed a US$430 million joint service agreement with seven companies that would help it increase its crude oil production by 641,000 barrels per day.

On top of the incessant production slump, PDVSA has seen difficulties in exporting its oil cargoes after a partial closure at the Jose port at the end of August delayed shipments.

A week before that, ConocoPhillips reached a settlement with PDVSA to recover the full US$2-billion amount that an international court awarded it earlier this year for the expropriation of its oil assets in Venezuela a decade ago. PDVSA agreed to settle the dispute with Conoco and possibly save some assets in the Caribbean from seizures, as the U.S. oil firm said that it would be suspending the legal actions to enforce the award.

PDVSA has 90 days from August 20 to make the first US$500 million payment of the award to Conoco. On September 5, Conoco’s chief executive Ryan Lance said that the U.S. company was still awaiting the payment, but expected Venezuela to honor the settlement agreement. If payments aren’t made, however, ConocoPhillips would resume its legal enforcement actions, Lance noted.

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Tanker Backlog Builds Again in Venezuela

(Reuters, Marianna Parraga, 6.Sep.2018) — Crude exports by Venezuela’s PDVSA have slowed after a tanker collision at its main port last month disrupted operations, adding to a backlog of vessels waiting to load, according to shipping sources and Reuters data.

Oil is the financial lifeline for the embattled socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro, but his cash-strapped administration has failed to invest enough in the industry to prevent its decline. Venezuela has sought to increase exports after asset seizures and declining output earlier this year raised the prospect of temporary suspension of contracts.

PDVSA has not said how long it will take to repair damage from the collision and resume normal loading and discharging operations. The company did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Last week, PDVSA offered loadings at an alternative port to crude customers whose shipments were affected by the collision, but only a few have accepted so far, the sources said. That alternative, the Puerto la Cruz terminal, is limited to loading 500,000 barrels of crude per tanker, far less than the 2 million barrels PDVSA’s main port of Jose can handle.

Large tankers including three Suezmaxes and seven Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) are lined up off Jose waiting to load at the available docks and monobuoys systems.

The vessel backlog around PDVSA’s ports has been increasing since late August, following the collision. As of Sept. 6, more than 20 tankers were waiting to load 26 million barrels of Venezuelan crude, according to Reuters Trade Flows and vessel tracking data.

PDVSA’s crude exports rose in July to 1.39 million barrels per day (bpd), the most since November, but last month they slipped almost 8 percent to 1.29 million bpd on Jose port’s partial operations, falling oil output and Caribbean terminal seizure attempts by creditors including U.S. producer ConocoPhillips, according to the Reuters data.

One of PDVSA’s main customers, Russia’s state-run Rosneft, loaded a 925,000-barrel cargo of diluted crude oil (DCO) during the weekend at one of Jose’s monobuoys after being diverted from the South dock, still closed because of the collision.

Rosneft-chartered Nordic Moon set sail to Malta on Sunday after waiting to load in Venezuela since early August. But the Russian company still has other four vessels waiting to load up to 6 million barrels of heavy crude at Jose, according to the data.

Jose’s South dock, which suffered damage from the collision last month, is mainly used for shipping Orinoco Belt crude and discharging imported naphtha used to dilute the country’s extra heavy oil and make it exportable.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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PDVSA and ConocoPhillips Reach New, Positive Settlement

(Citgo, 21.Aug.2018) — As officially reported by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) and ConocoPhillips, the two companies recently reached a settlement agreement resulting from the nationalization of the Hamaca and Petrozuata projects in 2007.

As background, ConocoPhillips initiated arbitration before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), demanding that PDVSA pay approximately $20 billion in return for its assets. This amount was based on the theory that PDVSA should have unlimited liability for the actions of the country. However, on April 24, 2018 the ICC ruled that PDVSA should pay only $1.87 billion, an amount based on the previous association agreements between the two companies.

As a result of the settlement, ConocoPhillips has agreed to suspend its legal enforcement actions of the ICC award, including in the Dutch Caribbean. At the same time, PDVSA will pay approximately 25 percent of the award in the short term and the remaining balance in quarterly installments over the next 4.5 years.

PDVSA confirmed in a statement that it will continue serving both the international and domestic markets. Furthermore, the company affirmed that this agreement reached with ConocoPhillips demonstrates, once again, the firm will of PDVSA to reach commercial solutions with its creditors while continuing to strengthen itself and its commercial operations.

CITGO also continues serving its customers in the United States, and the resolution of this matter helps to ensure the stability in the overall CITGO commercial supply chain. As a leading refining and marketing company, with strong financial and operational performance, CITGO will continue producing and selling quality products and is well positioned for the future.

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Venezuela Agrees to Pay $2 Bln Over Seizure of Oil Projects

(The New York Times, Clifford Krauss, 20.Aug.2018) – More than a decade ago, Venezuela seized several oil projects from the American oil company ConocoPhillips without compensation. Now, under pressure after ConocoPhillips carried out its own seizures, the Venezuelans are going to make amends.

ConocoPhillips announced on Monday that the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa, had agreed to a $2 billion judgment handed down by an International Chamber of Commerce tribunal that arbitrated the dispute. Pdvsa will be allowed to pay over nearly five years, but as it is nearly bankrupt, even those terms may be hard to meet.

After winning the arbitration ruling in April, ConocoPhillips seized Pdvsa oil inventories, cargoes and terminals on several Dutch Caribbean islands. The move seriously hampered Venezuela’s efforts to export oil to the United States and Asia, and emboldened other creditors to seek financial retribution.

“What they did was choke the exports and made it clear to Pdvsa that the cost of not coming to an agreement would be higher than actually settling on a payment schedule,” said Francisco J. Monaldi, a Venezuelan oil expert at Rice University.

As its oil production has plummeted to the lowest levels in decades, Venezuela has fallen behind on more than $6 billion in bond payments. Pdvsa has already defaulted on more than $2 billion in bonds after failing to make interest payments over the last year, and owes billions of dollars more to service companies.

Adding to Venezuela’s woes, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions that prohibit the purchase and sale of Venezuelan government debt, including bonds issued by the state oil company.

Mr. Monaldi said Pdvsa would be forced to pay ConocoPhillips with money it would have paid other creditors and would probably delay some oil shipments to China it owes in separate loan agreements. He added that “there is not a negligible probability” that at some point it will discontinue payments for lack of money.

Hyperinflation, corruption and growing starvation have crippled the Venezuelan economy, as the socialist government is forced to choose between buying food and medicine and satisfying the demands of creditors. Over the last few days, the government has scrambled to deal with its economic crisis by sharply devaluing its currency, raising wages and promising to shave energy subsidies.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. Its crisis has tightened global oil markets at a time when threatened United States oil sanctions against Iran could drive up prices.

The settlement with ConocoPhillips over the 2007 seizure resolves a drawn-out legal struggle, at least for the time being.

“As a result of the settlement, ConocoPhillips has agreed to suspend its legal enforcement actions of the I.C.C. award, including in the Dutch Caribbean,” ConocoPhillips said in a statement.

Pdvsa, which did not comment on the agreement, is to pay the first $500 million within 90 days.

ConocoPhillips is pursuing a separate arbitration case over the same seizure against the government of Venezuela before the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, which could result in another large settlement award, perhaps as high as $6 billion.

That amount would probably be unpayable, experts say, but it could put ConocoPhillips in a strong position to obtain access to Venezuelan oil fields in the future if the current government eventually falls.

Pdvsa’s problems with creditors are far-reaching, putting its American Citgo assets, including three large refineries and a pipeline network, in jeopardy. A federal judge in Delaware recently ruled that Crystallex, a Canadian gold mining company, could seize over $1 billion in shares of Citgo as compensation for a 2008 nationalization of a mining operation in Venezuela.

Citgo is appealing. If it loses, that may open the way for more claims on Citgo assets by companies whose investments have been expropriated in Venezuela, including Exxon Mobil.

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Rafael Ramírez Says Maduro Destroyed PDVSA

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 19.Aug.2018) – Former PDVSA President Rafael Ramírez says Venezuela produced 3 million barrels per day until December 2013. That figure has dropped by 1.8 million, according to his statements.

“When we were in the revolutionary government of Comandante Chávez, we had fiscal balance and enough income for all social programs, not because the price was 100 dollars a barrel, as the infamous say (we showed that we only had those prices for 4 years, the rest of the years prices were between 22 and 42 dollars a barrel, much less than now), but, precisely, because we charged transnationals and PDVSA all the taxes and royalties without exemptions of any kind. But, in addition, we had oil production of 3 million barrels per day until December 2013,” writes Ramírez in a blog post on Medium.

A PDV petrol station in the once popular Las Mercedes section of Caracas, Venezuela. Prior to its takeover, the station was controlled and run by Chevron Corporation. Source: Energy Analytics Institute (EAI)

“Now, the government has destroyed PDVSA, its production has fallen, in just 4 years (with a dramatic drop since Quevedo entered) to 1.2 million barrels a day due to the inability and irresponsibility of Maduro in the management of oil issues. In PDVSA, we have lost 1.8 million barrels per day, at an average price of 63 dollars per barrel, we are talking about 113.4 million dollars every day, which [is to say] they [have] stopped receiving, 4.139 million dollars a year!,” writes Ramírez, who also served as Venezuela’s Minister of Petroleum, among other posts during the governments of the late President Hugo Chávez and current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, until his departure and rupture with the latter.

“Now, the owners of the petroleum, that’s to say, the Venezuelan citizens, have to pay the international price for gasoline, as if [Venezuela] were not a petroleum country.” — Ramírez

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Venezuelan Oil Assets to be Seized by Creditors

(Express, Simon Osborne, 16.Aug.2018) – Venezuela’s oil assets are being targeted by angry creditors after a US court granted a Canadian mining company permission to send in the bailiffs.

Firms owed billions by the beleaguered South American country and its state-owned oil firm PDVSA are now lining up to make sure they get a pay-out.

The Venezuelan economy is crippled by hyperinflation and the discredited regime of President Nicolás Maduro faces trade sanctions from the US, EU, Canada and Latin America’s biggest countries.

The country is essentially bankrupt and creditors see its oil assets as their best bet with the biggest target being Citgo, a Texas-based oil refiner that processes Venezuelan crude oil and is estimated to be worth roughly £3.15bn.

Oil tankers could also be targeted as US hedge fund Elliott Management did with an Argentine ship in 2012 after it won a US court ruling to collect on unpaid debts.

Venezuela, which is overdue on about £4.5bn in debt payments, is reportedly transferring oil cargoes to safe harbours including Cuba to avoid such risks.

Canadian mining company Crystallex won a key battle in its attempts to force Venezuela to pay £1.1bn in compensation for expropriation of a mining project when a US judge accepted its argument that PDVSA was an “alter ego” of the Venezuelan state and gave it the right to seize PDVSA assets in the US.

Francisco Rodriguez, chief economist of Torino Capital said the ruling could serve as a precedent.

He said: “This judgment is unambiguously negative for Venezuela, given its loss of an asset of significant value. In all likelihood the ruling will spur creditors to attempt to pursue PDVSA assets.”

ConocoPhillips has already won a £1.57bn arbitration award against PDVSA from the International Chamber of Commerce, the US oil major seized the company’s assets in the Caribbean.

The seizures left PDVSA without access to facilities that process almost a quarter of Venezuela’s oil exports.

To avoid the risk of other assets being taken, PDVSA asked its customers to load oil from its anchored vessels acting as floating storage units.

Citgo’s complicated ownership – half the company is security against more than £2.36bn of PDVSA bonds and half is collateral for a £1.18bn loan from Russian oil giant Rosneft – means any immediate plundering of its assets is extremely unlikely.

Robert Kahn, a professor at the American University and a former International Monetary Fund official, said: “The ruling is a win for Crystallex, no doubt. But I’m not convinced that it immediately marks a tipping point.”

Richard Cooper, senior partner at New York law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, said: “The Crystallex ruling doesn’t mean that every Republic of Venezuela bondholder can automatically assume that PDVSA assets are available to them.”

Venezuela also owes tens of billions of dollars to China and Russia but its sole foreign-exchange generating industry is in steep decline with oil output dropping below the 1947 levels of 1.3m barrels per day.

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Venezuela’s Citgo Refineries At Risk Of Seizure

BOSTON, MA: People walk through the rain in front of the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square, Boston, July 18, 2016. (Photo by Timothy Tai for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

(Forbes, Robert Rapie, 12.Aug.2018) – In 2007, following Venezuela’s expropriation of billions of dollars of assets from U.S. companies like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, I suggested a potential remedy.

Since Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.) owns the Citgo refineries in the U.S., I felt the companies that had lost billions of dollars of assets could target these refineries for seizure as compensation.

These refineries have the same vulnerabilities as the U.S. assets in Venezuela that were seized. They represent infrastructure on the ground that can’t be removed from the country.

Citgo has three major refining complexes in the U.S. with a total refining capacity of 750,000 barrels per day. Recognizing the vulnerability from asset seizure, PDVSA tried to sell these assets in 2014, and valued them at $10 billion. But that value have been grossly overstated, considering that Venezuela subsequently pledged 49.9% of Citgo to Russian oil giant Rosneft as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan.

In recent years, PDVSA has lost a series of arbitration awards related to expropriations, and companies have been looking for opportunities to collect. In May, ConocoPhillips seized some PDVSA assets in the Caribbean to partially enforce a $2 billion arbitration award for Venezuela’s 2007 expropriation.

ConocoPhillips had sought up to $22 billion — the largest claim against PDVSA — for the broken contracts from its Hamaca and Petrozuata oil projects. The company is pursuing a separate arbitration case against Venezuela before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The ICSID has already declared Venezuela’s takeover unlawful, opening the way for another multi-billion dollar settlement award that may happen before year-end.

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Last week, a court ruling opened the door for Citgo assets to be seized to pay for these judgments.

Defunct Canadian gold miner Crystallex had been awarded a $1.4 billion judgment over Venezuela’s 2008 nationalization of a Crystallex gold mining operation in the country. A U.S. federal judge ruled that a creditor could seize Citgo’s assets to enforce this award.

This ruling is sure to set off a feeding frenzy among those that have won arbitration rulings against Venezuela. Until the legal rulings are settled, it’s hard to say which companies will end up with Citgo’s assets. But it’s looking far more likely it won’t be PDVSA.

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Is Venezuelan Oil Output Falling Faster Than Expected?

(OilPrice.com, Nick Cunningham, 12.Aug.2018) – The bad news from Venezuela continues.

In July, Venezuela’s oil production came in lower than PDVSA had targeted, according to Argus Media. While PDVSA had hoped that it, along with its joint venture partners, would produce as much as 1.65 million barrels per day (mb/d) in July, actual production came in at about 1.526 mb/d.

Argus says that production in the Orinoco heavy oil belt, where vast oil reserves are located, was a particular disappointment. The problem for Venezuela is that the Orinoco belt was supposed to hold up better than conventional oil production from elsewhere. The declines are a grave problem for the South American OPEC nation, and they pose an existential threat to the regime of President Nicolas Maduro, who avoided an apparent assassination attempt days ago.

But the production figure that Argus got its hands on, which came from an internal report from PDVSA, seem optimistic, even though they do point to shortfalls. After all, the June OPEC report suggested that output stood at just 1.34 mb/d – data that came from secondary sources, which includes Argus.

Against that backdrop, the 1.526 mb/d figure doesn’t seem credible. Indeed, sources from within PDVSA told Argus that officials from the company’s eastern and western divisions “systematically inflated” the data. “They play with the storage tanks and what they report is not reality,” a senior executive told Argus. In reality, production could have been as low as 1.25 mb/d.

The report is not entirely useless, however, as it does offer some clues into the company’s demise. Argus says that “scant maintenance, reservoir management, skilled labor flight and a lack of critical naptha and light crude for transport and blending” are all contributing to the steep decline in production. An estimated 1,191 wells stopped producing in July.

In a separate report from Argus, it appears that the island of Curacao is “scrambling for a lifeline to resuscitate” the century-old Isla refinery that PDVSA “has nearly abandoned,” due to the fact that ConocoPhillips moved in to seize the facility following an international arbitration decision earlier this year. Curacao says it has the capability to operate the refinery on its own, but it doesn’t have the capital nor the supply of crude oil needed as a feedstock. The refinery can theoretically produce up to 335,000 barrels per day (bpd), but in reality it can probably only produce two-thirds of that amount. For now, it is barely operational with PDVSA no longer supplying the refinery with crude oil.

From PDVSA’s standpoint, the loss of the refinery has only compounded the problems back in Venezuela since the facility was critical to blending and preparing oil for export.

The problems in Venezuela are so bad that even the Trump administration, no stranger to conflict, has decided that it does not want to kick the country while it is down. After having been on the verge of implementing sweeping sanctions – possibility targeted at Venezuela’s oil exports, or perhaps the export of diluent from the U.S. to Venezuela – the Trump administration has scrapped those plans.

In fact, the problems in Venezuela are so acute, that the attempted assassination of President Maduro barely moved the oil market, as the WSJ pointed out. That bears emphasis: There was an attempted coup in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, a founding OPEC member and still a major oil producer, and the markets basically shrugged it off. And that is not because the oil market is oversupplied – there is a reasonable case to be made that the market could be short on supply at some point this year.

But Venezuela’s oil sector is in shambles, so oil traders are apparently already of the mind that it cannot possibly get any worse. A coup even leaves open the very remote possibility of a rebound, although, as Francisco Monaldi details, growing production by, say, 200,000 bpd per year would require a sustained effort, including investments of around $20 billion per year for a decade. Not to mention a radical change in the political context and a macroeconomic stabilization program. Needless to say, none of that appears to be in the cards anytime soon.

In any event, the coup did not succeed, so the losses are destined to continue. “The permanence of Maduro and his radical circle of collaborators is short-, medium- and long-term bullish for oil prices because the regime will fail to take the steps needed to turn production around,” Raúl Gallegos, a political analysts at Control Risks, and author of Crude Nation, told the Wall Street Journal.

Expect PDVSA to continue to miss its production targets.

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Crystallex Wins Right To Tap Citgo For Compensation

(OilPrice.com, Irina Slav, 10.Aug.2018) – Canadian gold miner Crystallex was ruled the winner in a long-running case against Venezuela, which it has sued for the forced nationalization of its assets by the Hugo Chavez government. A U.S. federal judge this week awarded the miner the right to approach Venezuela’s U.S. oil unit, Citgo, to seek its compensation of US$1.4 billion.

The Associated Press notes the ruling by Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark is unique: government assets such as Citgo’s parent, PDVSA, are as a rule protected from lawsuits targeting a state. Yet in Stark’s ruling, the judge said that Venezuela had blurred the lines between the government and the state oil firm, with a military official at the helm of PDVSA.

There is no reason to believe Crystallex will not seek to enforce the ruling as soon as possible after a decade-old legal battle. Should this happen, PDVSA, according to AP, might have to liquidate Citgo to get funds for the settlement. The company is worth a lot more than US$1.4 billion—it is valued at around US$8 billion—but cash-strapped Caracas does not have a lot of funding sources at the moment.

The judge has delayed the enforcing of the ruling for a week, possibly to give Crystallex and Caracas time to try and reach a payment agreement.

What could make matters worse for Venezuela is the fact that Crystallex is by far not the only company seeking compensation for the nationalization of its business in the country, and now more of those rulings could follow. ConocoPhillips is another one: the company earlier this year won a court order allowing it to seize PDVSA assets in the Caribbean as a way of getting US$2.04 billion in compensation for the nationalization of two projects by the Chavez government.

AP also quoted a broker from Caracas Capital Markets as saying bondholders could follow suit demanding their money, too. Bondholders are owed US$65 billion in bonds that Caracas stopped servicing a year ago.

“This was the most vulnerable low hanging fruit for debtholders to go after. It looks like Crystallex is the lucky lottery winner because they got there first,” Russ Dallen said.

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Venezuela’s Oil Sales to U.S. in July Below 500 Mb/d

(Reuters, 10.Aug.2018) – Venezuela’s crude exports to the United States declined to 494,400 barrels per day (bpd) in July after rising the prior three months, showing the impact of asset seizures against state-run oil firm PDVSA, according to Thomson Reuters data.

July was the first month crude exports fell below 500,000 bpd since the months of January through March.

U.S. oil producer ConocoPhillips in May began seizing PDVSA’s overseas assets in an attempt to collect on a $2 billion arbitration award. Its legal actions have left PDVSA with no access to most of its Caribbean terminals, restricting the company’s already dwindling exports.

Most of PDVSA’s customers in the United States, where flows of Venezuelan oil have also been affected in the last year by financial sanctions imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, are now receiving fewer barrels.

In July, 30 cargoes of Venezuelan crude arrived at U.S. ports, compared with 33 in June. The volumes in July were 12 percent lower than the prior month and 22.5 percent below the same month a year earlier, according to the data.

Only two cargoes of Venezuelan crude were shipped last month from the Caribbean island of Aruba, where PDVSA’s unit Citgo Petroleum operates an oil terminal. A local court in May temporarily froze inventories and cargoes there at Conoco’s request, but weeks later it allowed the U.S. refining subsidiary to resume normal operations at the facility.

No Venezuelan crude has been shipped to the United States since mid-June from Curacao, Bonaire or St. Eustatius, neighboring Caribbean islands that PDVSA has used to refine, store and ship oil, according to the data.

The largest importer of Venezuelan crude in the United States last month was Valero Energy, which has managed to ramp up imports of Venezuelan oil in recent months amid the country’s export crisis.

The second largest importer was Citgo.

Even amid declining crude exports, shipments to the United States of Diluted Crude Oil (DCO) made with Venezuelan extra heavy oil and imported naphtha continued rising in July, to 252,820 bpd, suggesting limited output of upgraded crude at Venezuela’s main crude producing region, the Orinoco Belt.

PDVSA has limited the damage from the asset seizures by transferring oil between tankers at sea and loading vessels in neighboring Cuba. But the company is fulfilling less than 60 percent of its supply obligations with customers.

(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Gary McWilliams and Phil Berlowitz )

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No End In Sight For Venezuela’s Oil Crisis

(OilPrice.com, Nick Cunningham, 12.Jul.2018) – Venezuela’s oil production plunged by another 47,500 barrels per day (bpd) in June, compared to a month earlier. An exodus of workers and field shut downs were reported for the month, pointing to a grim near-term future that could see total production dip below 1 million barrels per day (mb/d) by the end of the year.

According to OPEC’s secondary sources, Venezuela’s output fell to 1.34 mb/d in June, which, aside from a brief interruption of output due to a strike in 2002-2003, puts production at its lowest point in nearly seven decades.

The problems plaguing Venezuela’s oil industry are well-publicized, but the situation continued to deteriorate in June. Two officials from state-owned PDVSA told Argus that workers are fleeing operations. “More production wells are being shut down, the skilled oilfield labor force declined in all upstream divisions by at least a combined 1,000 workers in June, and scheduled maintenance continues to be postponed,” a PDVSA official from the western division said.

A separate official from the eastern division told Argus that production continued to fall in the first 11 days of July as more rigs were scrapped and more wells were shut down. PDVSA is “dying operationally,” the official said.

You wouldn’t know that if you went by government statistics, however. While OPEC’s secondary sources estimated average output at 1.34 mb/d in June, the Venezuelan government reported production figures at 1.531 mb/d, flat from May levels. Those figures defy belief and are not credible, but PDVSA’s leader, Manuel Quevedo, is “cooking the official data sent to OPEC to hide the truth about [PDVSA] from president Maduro and from the public,” an official from the energy ministry told Argus.

Venezuela’s production is now down nearly 800,000 bpd from a year ago, and falling.

“Output from Venezuela’s ageing conventional oil fields is in rapid decline and upgraders operated by foreign joint-venture partners in the vast Orinoco heavy oil belt are malfunctioning and running below capacity,” the IEA said in its latest Oil Market Report. “At the end of June, PDVSA and Chevron restarted the 210 kb/d Petropiar upgrader after almost a month-long closure.”

“In total, upgrading projects in Venezuela can turn roughly 600 kb/d to 700 kb/d of extra-heavy Orinoco crude into export grades. Recently they have been largely out of action due to bottlenecks at loading facilities.”

China has decided to invest $250 million to help slow the decline underway in Venezuela, but it isn’t at all clear that that amount of money will have a significant impact. After all, China has poured $50 billion in loans into Venezuela over the past decade, and the trajectory of Venezuelan oil production has only gone in one direction.

There is also the possibility that the June figures might look a bit better than should be the case because PDVSA drained inventories. Reuters reports that Venezuela’s crude exports to the U.S. recovered a bit in June, compared to May, but that PDVSA drew down on stocks in Curacao and Aruba ahead of ConocoPhillips’ seizure of the facilities. As Conoco presses its case against PDVSA, Venezuela has largely lost control of its facilities on those Caribbean islands.

There is no shortage of reasons to believe the situation will continue on a downward spiral. Oil wells are being shut down and the worker exodus will put an even deeper strain on operations. More than $9 billion in bond payments fall due this year, and it is hard to imagine the government and PDVSA marshalling the resources to meet those payments. Inflation is set to top some 13,000 percent this year, a mind-boggling figure, while GDP could shrink by a further 15 percent. By the end of the year, GDP will have contracted by nearly 50 percent since 2013.

The lack of payment to PDVSA’s joint venture partners threatens to accelerate production losses. The rig count fell to just 26 in June, according to Argus, down from 70 in the first quarter of 2016.

Venezuela has been losing around 50,000 bpd each month so far this year, which means it could lose another 300,000 bpd before the end of 2018. The losses are tightening the oil market, and Saudi Arabia is now forced to ramp up production – and cut into its spare capacity – to make up for the declines.

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China to Invest $250 mln to Boost Venezuela’s Oil Sector

(Bloomberg, 4.Jul.2018) – Venezuela’s distressed oil sector may get some much needed financing from China, Finance Minister Simon Zerpa said after meetings with officials from China Development Bank and China National Petroleum Corporation.

China Development Bank will invest more than US$250 million to boost Venezuela oil production in the Orinoco Belt, Zerpa, who is currently in Beijing for bilateral talks, said in a ministry statement.

“We’ve received the authorisation for a direct investment of more than US$250 million from China Development Bank to increase PDVSA production, and we’re already putting together financing for a special loan that China’s government is granting Venezuela for US$5 billion for direct investments in production,” Zerpa said.

The two countries will sign an additional three or four financing deals in the coming weeks, he said.

Venezuela’s oil output averaged 2.9 million barrels a day in 2013, when President Nicolas Maduro was first elected.

In June, output dropped to around 1.36 million barrels per day, according to International Energy Agency data.

State oil company PDVSA has been struggling to send oil shipments to China after a legal order granted to ConocoPhillips froze its assets in Caribbean ports and terminals.

Maduro has vowed to boost production by 1 million additional barrels, while critics say output will plummet to 1 million barrels a day by the end of this year.

Venezuela and China officials will continue meetings on Wednesday, the ministry said in its statement. Zerpa, who has served in the post since October, was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department before his appointment.

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Venezuela’s Declining Crude Exports Squeeze India’s Refiners

(Reuters, Marianna Parraga, 3.Jul.2018) – Venezuela’s crude shipments to India, its third largest export market, fell 21 percent in the first half of the year, according to internal documents from state-run PDVSA, adding to supply troubles for Indian refiners as they are increasingly pressed to diversify oil imports.

Venezuela’s production decline to a 30-year low and export woes stemming from mismanagement, lack of investment and payment delays are affecting almost all of the OPEC-nation’s customers.

But the impact on India is notable and comes as its refiners are now preparing for a “drastic reduction to zero” of oil imports from U.S.-sanctioned Iran.

Last week, PDVSA officials met with executives from India’s Reliance Industries and Russia’s Rosneft, which owns a majority stake in India-based Nayara Energy, to discuss trade issues, the state-run company said.

The talks focused on how to remedy export delays, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Venezuela sent almost 280,000 barrels per day (bpd) of heavy crude to India in the first half of the year, a 21 percent drop versus the 355,500 bpd shipped in the same period of 2017, according to PDVSA trade documents.

The decline is the second steepest after the United States, which has suffered a drop of about 30 percent in crude imports from Venezuela this year, the documents seen by Reuters show.

If crude supplies from Iran and Venezuela, two of India’s top five oil suppliers, cannot be secured in coming months, some of the nation’s refiners would have to rely almost entirely on sourcing the heavy barrels they need from Iraq, according to analysts.

“Indian refiners are very worried about supply from Iran, but also from Venezuela,” said Robert Campbell from consultancy Energy Aspects.

Saudi Arabia is expected to boost supply to India in the short term, but those barrels would not match the quality of the missing Venezuelan crude, he added. “The lack of heavy barrels is not a problem only in the Atlantic Basin but in Asia as well,” he added.

PDVSA and Nayara did not reply to requests for comment. India’s Reliance declined to comment.

India is the world’s fourth largest refiner after the United States, China and Russia. While Chinese and Russian firms resell a large portion of the Venezuelan crude and fuel they receive to monetize oil-for-loan agreements, Indian refiners need the barrels they get through crude supply contracts with PDVSA.

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Venezuela’s crude output is declining faster than expected amid insufficient investment, attempts to seize its overseas assets over payment disputes and skilled workers leaving its oil industry due to low salaries and an extended corruption probe within PDVSA.

The country’s oil production averaged 1.58 million bpd in the first five months of 2018, according to figures reported to OPEC, its lowest annual level since 1985. The fall, which is putting pressure on global supply and contributing to growing oil prices, has also taken a toll on exports.

PDVSA last month requested customers not send tankers to its main port of Jose to alleviate congestion. But vessels have continued arriving mainly for Chinese, Indian and U.S. clients, according to Thomson Reuters vessel tracking data.

The tanker bottleneck has worsened since May, when ConocoPhillips started legal actions to seize PDVSA’s assets to satisfy a $2-billion arbitration award, blocking the state-run firm from using its Caribbean terminals.

In June, PDVSA shipped to India 268,300 bpd after servicing some vessels that had waited for up to a month to load. The Venezuelan firm plans to deliver some 240,000 bpd in July, according to Reuters and PDVSA data.

The unstable crude supply from Venezuela to India in recent months has mainly benefited Iraq, India’s largest crude source, and United Arab Emirates, which in May replaced Venezuela as India’s fourth biggest crude supplier.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston, additional reporting by Promit Mukherjee in Mumbai; Editing by Tom Brown and Marguerita Choy

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China Throws Venezuela’s Oil Industry $5B Lifeline

(OilPrice.com, Irina Slav) – China’s Development Bank has approved a US$5-billion loan for Venezuela’s oil industry, Bloomberg reports, quoting the troubled South American country’s Finance Minister Simon Zerpa.

“We’ve received the authorization for a direct investment of more than $250 million from China Development Bank to increase PDVSA production, and we’re already putting together financing for a special loan that China’s government is granting Venezuela for $5 billion for direct investments in production,” the official said.

The loan is literally a lifeline for PDVSA, which has been unable to stop an accelerating production decline resulting from years of mismanagement and a cash crunch brought about by the tightening grip of U.S. sanctions.

International Energy Agency figures suggest Venezuela produced an average 1.36 million barrels of oil daily last month. This is down from 2.9 million bpd five years ago. President Maduro vowed to increase production by 1 million bpd by the end of the year, but he admitted that the goal would be difficult to meet.

It became even more difficult after ConocoPhillips seized PDVSA storage facilities in the Caribbean, keeping it from meeting its export obligations and creating tanker bottlenecks at Venezuelan ports.

PDVSA’s exports to China also suffered as a result of the quickly deteriorating situation. Shipping data from Reuters last month suggested that these could have plummeted to an eight-year low. This would have provided additional motivation to China to lend Venezuela a hand with growing its oil production.

As a major creditor and ally, China is sure to benefit from some preferential oil export conditions amid rising international prices that would ensure its continued backing of Caracas.

“One of the best things about Venezuelan oil was its stable volumes for all these years and competitive prices,” a senior Chinese oil industry official with direct knowledge of the Venezuelan supply issues told Reuters last month. “But now they seem in very bad shape, not having the money to upgrade port facilities, no money even to remove the high water content in crude oil.”

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PdV Restarting PetroPiar Upgrader

(Argus, 26.Jun.2018) – Venezuelan state-owned PdV is restarting its 210,000 b/d PetroPiar upgrader this week after completing month-long repairs, PdV and energy ministry officials said.

Chevron, which has a 30pc stake in Petropiar, is “working closely” with PdV to restart the facility, the PdV executive said.

Chevron regularly declines to comment on its minority-held operations in Venezuela.

PetroPiar is one of four PdV-run upgraders at the Jose industrial complex in Anzoátegui state.

Following the restart of PetroPiar, PdV is also expected to resume operations at its 160,000 b/d Petro San Felix upgrader, the two officials said. But several Petro San Felix processing units are still undergoing repairs, making a full restart unlikely until the second half of July, they added.

Petro San Felix, formerly called PetroAnzoátegui, is 100pc owned and operated by PdV.

PdV’s 200,000 b/d PetroCedeño upgrader remains shut down for major works that likely will not be completed until August, the PdV and ministry officials said. France´s Total and Norway’s Equinor hold a combined 40pc stake in PetroCedeño.

PdV’s 150,000 b/d PetroMonagas upgrader is currently operating at roughly 50pc of nameplate capacity and is scheduled for maintenance starting in July, the officials added. Russian state-controlled Rosneft owns 40pc of PetroMonagas.

The four upgraders, which have a combined synthetic crude production capacity of more than 600,000 b/d, have been mostly off line for repairs since May, when exports started backing up.

The backlog of close to 30mn bl of mostly heavy Merey crude and diluted crude oil (DCO) began after US independent ConocoPhillips imposed debt-related liens on PdV´s Dutch Caribbean assets, prompting the Venezuelan company to pull its tankers into Venezuelan waters and shift exports to an fob basis, a strategy that has so far failed to restore exports to their former rhythm. Among the operational challenges is transshipment, which PdV traditionally carried out in the islands.

ConocoPhillips is seeking to collect $2bn from PdV that it was awarded by an international arbitration tribunal in April for the 2007 expropriation of the US firm´s stakes in two of the upgraders.

The liens on PdV´s assets were partially lifted last month to allow PdV to supply fuel to the islands and start paying the debt through escrow accounts.

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Venezuelan Oil Output Charting New Lows

(UPI, Daniel J. Graeber, 19.Jun.2018) – Ahead of what could be pivotal talks among OPEC members, production from founding member Venezuela could hit new lows soon, an industry report found.

State-backed oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, known commonly as PDVSA, notified 11 of its international customers earlier this month that it wouldn’t be able to meet contractual obligations of 1.5 million barrels per day. According to commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts, PDVSA had only 694,000 barrels per day available for shipments.

“As workers have fled the country, state-owned oil company PDVSA has had a difficult time maintaining crude output, let alone boosting production,” its report, emailed to UPI on Tuesday, read. “PDVSA’s refining sector has also deteriorated on a lack of funds and manpower.”

PDVSA is facing mounting obligations to its partners, notably ConocoPhillips. Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions pressures have made it difficult to do business with Venezuelan entities, including PDVSA. A digital currency embraced by President Nicolas Maduro was banned under U.S. actions.

Secondary sources reported to OPEC that Venezuela produced around 1.4 million barrels per day last month, down by more than half a million barrels per day from last year’s average. OPEC ministers last this week are expected to decide to put more oil on the market to buffer against the chronic shortages from Venezuela, though the Maduro administration is opposed to those considerations.

Higher oil prices support oil-exporting nations and prices would drop if OPEC decides to make a supply-side move later this week.

According to the International Energy Agency, Venezuelan production could drop to as low as 800,000 barrels per day, though Platts expects output to say above the 1 million barrels per day mark through next year.

The country’s rig count, a loose barometer of future production, was 28 last month, down about half from the start of the year.

“PDVSA has experienced similar drops in the past,” the Platts report read. “In the 1980s, the number of rigs fell to less than 30, causing crude production to fall to 1.3 million barrels per day.”

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Conoco Authorized to Seize $636 Mln in PDVSA Assets

(Reuters, 13.May.2018) – A Curacao court has authorized ConocoPhillips to seize about $636 million in assets belonging to Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA due to the 2007 nationalization of the U.S. oil major’s projects in Venezuela.

The legal action was the latest in the Caribbean to enforce a $2 billion arbitration award by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) over the nationalization.

The court decision, first reported by Caribbean media outlet Antilliaans Dagblad on Saturday, says Curacao can attach “oil or oil products on ships and on bank deposits.”

Conoco and PDVSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision, which was seen by Reuters and dated May 4.

Conoco earlier this month moved to temporarily seize PDVSA’s assets on Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and St. Eustatius. That threw Venezuela’s oil export chain into a tailspin just as Venezuela’s crude production has crumbled to a more than 30-year low due to underinvestment, theft, a brain drain and mismanagement.

Reuters reported on Friday that PDVSA was preparing to shut down the 335,000 barrel-per-day Isla refinery it operates in Curacao amid threats by Conoco to seize cargoes sent to resupply the facility.

PDVSA is also seeking ways to sidestep legal orders to hand over assets. The Venezuelan firm has transferred custody over the fuel produced at the Isla refinery to the Curacao government, the owner of the facility, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

PDVSA transferred ownership of crude to be refined at Isla to its U.S. unit, Citgo Petroleum, one of the sources said.

For the time being, PDVSA has suspended all oil storage and shipping from its Caribbean facilities and concentrated most shipping in its main crude terminal of Jose, which is suffering from a backlog.
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ConocoPhillips’s Chilean Interests

(Energy Analytics Institute, Aaron Simonsky, 25.Apr.2018) — ConocoPhillips is active in Chile in the Coiron Block in the Magallanes Basin, the company reported in a Fact Sheet updated on its website in March 2018. A short summary of its Chilean interest follows:

— Coiron Block: Partners in the block include: Empresa Nacional Del Petroleo (WI 51.0%, Operator) and ConocoPhillips (WI 49.0%)

In 2015, ConocoPhillips acquired a non-operated five percent interest in the Coiron Block in the Magallanes Basin covering approximately 400,000 gross acres. In 2016, ConocoPhillips drilled two exploration wells on the Coiron Block and finalized an agreement to increase its non-operated interest to 49 percent. In 2017, the two wells were expensed as dry holes.
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ConocoPhillips’s Interest in Colombia

(Energy Analytics Institute, Aaron Simonsky, 25.Apr.2018) — ConocoPhillips is active in Colombia in the Middle Magdalena Basin at VMM-3 and VMM-2, where it serves as operator at both blocks, the company reported in a Fact Sheet updated on its website in March 2018. A short summary of its Colombian interests follows:

— VMM-3: Partners in the block include ConocoPhillips (WI 80.0%, Operator) and CNE Oil & Gas S.A. (WI 20.0%)

In 2015, ConocoPhillips assumed operatorship of the VMM-3 Block, which extends over approximately 67,000 net acres. The block contains the Picoplata 1 Well, which was drilled in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 and 2017, ConocoPhillips conducted production testing operations at the Picoplata 1 Well and is continuing its evaluation of the block.

— VMM-2: Partners in the block include: ConocoPhillips (WI 80.0%, Operator) and Canacol Energy Colombia S.A. (WI 20.0%)

In 2017, ConocoPhillips acquired interest and operatorship of the VMM-2 Block, which extends over approximately 58,000 net acres and is contiguous to the VMM-3 Block. ConocoPhillips is currently undergoing an environmental impact study of the block.
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ICSID Orders Ecuador Pay ConocoPhillips $380 Mln

(ConocoPhillips, 8.Feb.2017) – ConocoPhillips’ wholly owned subsidiary, Burlington Resources Inc., received an arbitration award of $380 million from an international arbitration tribunal, constituted under the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), for Ecuador’s unlawful expropriation of Burlington’s significant investment in breach of the U.S.-Ecuador bilateral investment treaty.

“The Tribunal’s decision on damages sends a clear message that governments cannot expropriate investments without fair compensation,” said Janet Carrig, senior vice president, Legal and General Counsel. “ConocoPhillips sought to protect its interests to the fullest degree and the Tribunal acknowledged our legal rights and the unlawful nature of Ecuador’s actions.”

The decision is subject to potential annulment proceedings, but the company believes any application seeking to annul the award would be meritless and ConocoPhillips would strongly defend against it. The timing and manner of collection remain to be determined.

The Tribunal also issued a separate decision finding that Ecuador was entitled to $42 million for limited environmental and infrastructure impacts associated with the operations of the Consortium (comprising Burlington and Perenco). The Tribunal noted that “…while Ecuador also prevailed on part of its counterclaims, the amount awarded to Ecuador is an extremely small percentage of the amount claimed.”

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Venezuela Seeks Disqualification of ICSID Judges

(Energy Analytics Institute, Jared Yamin, 26.Mar.2015) – Venezuela presented a letter to the ICSID court requesting the dismissal of judge Kenneth Keith.

Keith is the president of the arbitration tribunal in the case brought to the court by ConocoPhillips in its wrongful expropriation case against the government of Venezuela which nationalized the Houston-based company’s assets in the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt, also known as the Faja.

Venezuela is also seeking dismisal of another judge in the case, Yves Fortier.

ConocoPhillips was originally seeking compensation of $30 billion for its assets that were expropriated by the government of then President Hugo Chavez. ConocoPhillips interest at question were called Petrozuata, La Hamaca and Corocoro, now called Petroanzoátegui, PetroPiar and PetroSucre, respectively.

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Venezuela Seizes Helmerich & Payne Rigs

(TulsaWorld, Rod Walton, 2.Jul.2010) – The action comes amid a payment dispute in which the company left the equipment idle.

Helmerich & Payne’s 52-year business relationship with Venezuela came to at least a temporary end Thursday as President Hugo Chavez’s government seized 11 rigs owned by the Tulsa contract drilling company.

The conventional drilling rigs have been idle since last year because Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the national oil company, has not paid Helmerich & Payne Inc. for work, H&P has said.

The company says PDVSA owes it about $43 million. The amount owed once exceeded $100 million.

Venezuela had threatened to seize the rigs since last week, saying that “forced acquisition” was necessary because Helmerich & Payne would not put the equipment back to work.

H&P’s “long-lived” assets in Venezuela are valued at about $67 million, the company’s spokesman Mike Drickamer said in an e-mailed response to the Tulsa World.

The seized rigs make up all of H&P’s equipment in Venezuela.

CEO Hans Helmerich and other company executives initially downplayed the impasse, saying they simply wanted to be paid for past work. Venezuela’s National Assembly and Chavez followed through with the threat by issuing an official decree earlier this week.

Venezuela has been a financial thorn in the side of several companies in recent years.

Williams Cos. Inc. of Tulsa, a natural gas producer, lost two joint-venture compression plants to seizure last year and also was forced to take a $241 million write-down on its books because of nonpayment.

ConocoPhillips, the integrated oil giant with significant offices in Bartlesville, lost multibillion-dollar joint venture projects to seizure by PDVSA. The Houston company later sought international arbitration over the compensation offered by Venezuela.

Citgo, a Houston marketing and retail company once based in Tulsa, is the U.S. wing of the Venezuelan state oil industry.

Helmerich & Payne had no further comment.

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