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Venezuela's PDVSA begins partial rationing of gasoline: sources

Caracas, Venezuela — PDVSA began a partial rationing of gasoline at gas stations in certain areas of Venezuela Sunday, as many gas stations in Caracas ran out of fuel as customers nervously filled up their tanks in anticipation of shortages, sources said Monday.

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"The supply of gas at stations close to highways will have priority, but the rest of the country will see partial rationing," said a director of the National Federation of Hydrocarbon Business Associations (Fenegas), who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"With its refineries in precarious condition and without access to imported refined productions, PDVSA will have to ration fuel sold in the local markets," said Ivan Freites, a PDVSA union leader.

Amid the political crisis, fuel inventories are at critical levels. Freites said that "in its current condition, with insufficient inventories of components to make gasoline, [refinery] CRP is in a condition to produce under the best of scenarios 46,000 b/d of 95 Ron blendstock and 37,000 b/d of 91 Ron blendstock."

According to the PDVSA technical report seen by S&P Global Platts, gasoline inventories have been exhausted while levels of diesel and LPG are enough to last only two days on average.

According to Products Plan January 2019, a document from the office of PDVSA's refining vice president, the consumption in the domestic market is running at an average 270,000 b/d, of which 173,000 b/d, or 64%, is represented by 91 and 95 octane gasoline.

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The extended political and economic crisis in Venezuela entered a new phase on January 23, when National Assembly President Juan Guaido declared himself the nation's president in front of a mass rally of supporters who were protesting against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. The assembly considers Maduro to be a usurper who was re-elected in illegitimate voting in May of last year.

The United States and dozens of other countries have recognized Guaido as the legitimate Venezuelan president. US President Donald Trump decreed new financial sanctions against PDVSA and its US subsidiary Citgo last month.

Shipments of Venezuelan crude to Citgo refineries in the US are affected by the sanctions, as are shipments to Venezuela of the diluent naphtha refined by Citgo.

Because of the deterioration of its refineries and its low processing levels, PDVSA has had to import increasing quantities of refined products and components to make gasoline.

Citgo provides 50% of these imports destined for the domestic market and those destined for Cuba to meet bilateral commitments.

In 2018, PDVSA imports of heavy naphtha and other products reached an average 253,000 b/d, an increase of 136,000 b/d of imports during the previous year.

According to previous reports, PDVSA's plans for January projected imports of 321,000 b/d, but an update with final monthly data was not available Monday.

PDVSA was not available for comment. -- Staff, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Derek Sands, newsdesk@spglobal.com