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Venezuela's PDVSA sending oil to Cuba despite fuel shortages in home


The acute fuel shortage in Venezuela is impeding distribution of limited food and aid needed to tackle the spreading coronavirus.

By Argus

Petroleumworld 03 31 2020

Venezuela's national oil company PDVSA is continuing to supply its political ally Cuba in spite of a severe fuel crisis at home and US sanctions designed to stem Venezuelan oil flow to the island.

According to a 28-29 March loading schedule obtained by Argus, four Cuban-owned tankers loaded almost 800,000 bl of crude and products at PDVSA's Amuay terminal in recent days.

The buyer of the four cargoes was listed as state-owned Cubametales, which was sanctioned by the US Treasury in July 2019. Several tankers that shuttle Venezuelan oil have also been sanctioned.

The Panama-flagged Petion is transporting 385,000 bl of 30°API crude and fuel oil blend to Cienfuegos, where Cuban state-owned Cupet operates a 65,000 b/d refinery.

Also en route to Cienfuegos is the Cuba-flagged Alicia , which loaded 72,000 bl of gasoil.

The Cuba-flagged Esperanza loaded 250,000 bl of vacuum gasoil bound for Havana, while the Panama-flagged Carlota C is transporting 90,000 bl of jet fuel to Santiago de Cuba.

Petion and Carlota C are among the tankers subject to US sanctions since last year.

Cupet has not responded to requests for comment, but Cuban officials have warned since last year of acute fuel shortages on the island are impacting transportation and power generation.

Venezuela has long supplied Cuba under a bilateral agreement signed in 2000. Havana pays for the Venezuelan oil through the deployment of experts in healthcare, security, sports and other fields. The volume has fluctuated from more than 100,000 b/d down to 50,000 b/d after 2015, reflecting PDVSA's eroded production and refining capacity and oil-backed debt commitments to China and Russia.

Aside from political considerations, PDVSA's recent shipments to Cuba help to ease logistical bottlenecks caused by US sanctions and the oil price collapse which have narrowed market outlets for Venezuelan crude. By shipping oil to Cuba, PDVSA frees up storage for additional production that cannot be immediately sold. The strategy was evident in October-November 2019, when PDVSA shipped around 200,000 b/d to Cuba.

Venezuela is scheduled to start receiving desperately needed fuel starting today, with the arrival at Amuay of the Malta-flagged Gemma that loaded in Milazzo, Italy on 11 March, according to separate shipping data.

Fueling a crisis

The acute fuel shortage in Venezuela is impeding distribution of limited food and aid needed to tackle the spreading coronavirus.

Venezuelan gasoline demand is about 110,000 b/d but "with 70,000 b/d of imports we can stabilize distribution of food and medical products," an oil ministry official said.

In addition to the sporadic imports, PDVSA is trying to repair gasoline-producing units at two of its refineries, which are all in disrepair.

In recent days, Venezuela has received medical aid from China, one of the countries that continues to recognize the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Over the weekend, Western-recognized interim president Juan Guaido called for all parties to form a "national emergency government" to address the health crisis, but he said Maduro could not play a part. Maduro and more than a dozen Venezuelan officials were indicted by the US last week for drugs trafficking and other charges, torpedoing odds for joint action.

Venezuela has 129 confirmed coronavirus cases and three deaths as of yesterday, according to government statistics.

Story from Argus Media
03 30 2020



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