Venezuelan oil cargoes to U.S. ports plunge as sanctions bite

By Lucia Kassai and Sheela Tobben on 10/25/2017

HOUSTON and NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s biggest market for crude sales -- the U.S. -- is becoming a harder and harder place for the socialist nation’s oil producer to do business as sanctions and diminishing quality controls discourage would-be buyers.

Oil sales to U.S. buyers have fallen for two straight months and now are 56% lower than their 2016 average, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. Ever since President Donald Trump slammed the regime of Nicolas Maduro with sanctions in August, American refiners have found banks reluctant to provide letters of credit for purchases of oil from state-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

The quality of Venezuelan oil has also been called into question. At least one U.S. refiner has rejected oil that arrived laced with as much as four times as much water as it should have. Water content in oil cargoes is closely watched by chemical engineers because excessive quantities can damage sensitive oil-processing equipment.

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